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  • Writer's pictureHarry Smith

A clash of kingdoms…

In Lectio 365 (a 24-7 Prayer app) earlier this week, I read this scripture:

“ Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them… that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and… be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESVUK)

Over my many years of research and writing, much of it has been condensed into the text of my booklet, “A Tree has Roots.” It has left me asking myself, “What does it really mean to be a Kingdom of God follower of Christ?” I do so because I am aware that whatever Christian and cultural tradition we have grown up in, both have been tainted by another kingdom - the empire spirit of the Doctrine of Discovery - resulting in a clash of kingdoms, God’s and Satan's! This was initially a Catholic Church doctrine which later traversed the Reformation. It was planted in Ireland in the mid-12th century by Pope Adrian IV and Henry II, providing the legal, political and theological framework for Empire expansion. It is so deeply embedded in our tribal mindsets through centuries of conflict, that it is nearly impossible to separate it from what is meant to uniquely define us as Christians, seekers first of the Kingdom of God.

In the scripture above Paul is addressing the Gentile Church in Ephesus. He was calling them to reject the Gentile secular culture they grew up in, to walk away from it. He described it as futile, having darkened their understanding and alienated them from the life of God; reminding them that it was not the way they had learned Christ. This was “the former manner of life” far removed from the renewed life “created after the likeness of God” - truly righteous and holy. Clearly, they were not solely given over to Christ and His Kingdom values.

The more I have talked with church, ministry leaders and other Christians I am aware, like them, that we don't know our histories. We have been discipled regarding various aspects of theology but have not been taught about our overall history on this island, from a Kingdom perspective. So as a Protestant or a Catholic, we have since birth imbibed the ‘rights’ of our history and the ‘wrongs’ of theirs. It has been adversarial, us versus them! (Eph. 6:12) We have learnt our histories linearly: dates of battles, names of martyrs, sites of genocide, major happenings such as 1912, 1916, the potato famine, plantation of Ulster, Cromwell… these have caused us to become entrenched, adversarial. What we have not understood is what is happening in the vertical - taking place in the heavenly realms, where Satan has, through our unresolved conflicts, been given a foothold in our communities, pitting us against each other. Paul speaks into that with these words: “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life.”

“A Tree has Roots” is a call to be “renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God…” The devotional finished with these words: “From darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom… this is the life offered to me in Jesus. I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any places of desire, thinking, or even old patterns, that hold power in my life. I imagine taking these off, like an unnecessary coat or jumper, to receive the power of God’s life in and through me.” This is what can lead to personal and ultimate Church revival.

  (Photo by Richard Lee, Unsplash)

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