Kingdoms and Empires Come and Go – by Greg Albrecht
Friend and Partner Letter from July 2022
America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great—attributed to “Democracy in America” (published in 1835) by French diplomat/historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859).
For Canadians and Americans, this month of July brings our national histories into focus: July 1 is Canada Day, a celebration of Canadian confederation in 1867. July 4 is memorialized in the United States as the birth of American independence in 1776.
As citizens and Christ-followers, we honor and respect the country in which we live. But we do not worship our country or any leader or political party. When push comes to shove, we echo Peter’s bold declaration: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29).
As citizens and Christ-followers, we mourn the gradual erosion of morality and decency all around us in our temporal world. We are deeply saddened by hatred, crime and evil of every size, shape and description. We are grieved to see national divisions that fail to heal, but more than that, perpetuate spiritual sickness. Yet, while we recognize the depressing, sin-sick world all around us, as Christ-followers, we recognize the futility of nationalism—therefore, our hopes and dreams are not fueled, dictated and defined by our place of birth, citizenship, country of residence or color of skin.
As citizens and Christ-followers, our long-term expectations are not limited by the country in which we live. Our path following Jesus does not involve repairing all the ills of the country in which we live. That task is way above our pay grade as disciples of Jesus Christ! With Paul we believe…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…(Philippians 3:20).
Earthly kingdoms come and go, always have and always will. The kingdom of God is NOT here today and gone tomorrow. God’s kingdom must come, the kingdoms of this world must go!
As we follow Christ, it is still so tempting to allow our focus to drift away from “a better country— a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16), allowing our thoughts to be diverted from the invisible kingdom of God toward the visible kingdom in which we now live. Because we have only one King whose name is Jesus, our primary emphasis and goal in life is not a better, improved America/Canada.
As Christ-followers, our mission in life is not defined by efforts to “save” America/Canada or any other country in which we reside. As Christ-followers, our primary goal is not to help a country recapture its “good old days”—however those days and times might be described and designated. As we follow Christ, we are not defined by or consumed by efforts to make our country great.
May we never forget the Cross of Christ. May we always remember our cruciform faith in which we willingly and self-sacrificially follow him, serving others in the name of Jesus, even though picking up our respective crosses involves suffering and denial of creature comforts. Yes, we love our countries, but we do not worship our countries. While we love our countries, we realize that when all things are made new, in the new heavens and new earth, there will be no United States, no Canada, no United Kingdom, no France, no Ukraine, no Russia, no China… “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). No president, king or prime minister has ever, or will ever, accomplish such a kingdom!
In addition to the quote I cited in the introduction, here are a few other classic quotes from Alexis de Toqueville, some of which may seem prophetic, as we read them a little over 185 years after he wrote them.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress
discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
In politics shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.
I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.
A brother in Christ was recently lamenting to me that the United States is going downhill. I agreed with him. Our national downward trajectory is not in question. He believes in a conservative political perspective, and pointed out specific reasons he perceives as contributing factors in our perilous toboggan run (often blaming others of another political persuasion).
However, I told him, on the other “side of the aisle” those of a more liberal perspective agree about what they also describe as a sorry state of affairs in our country, but they promise to fix the problems in differing ways than their more conservative fellow citizens.
Then I suggested to my friend that such a focus is not where we should be looking. While there is nothing wrong with Christ-followers being aware of the worsening conditions all around us, it is important to realize that we can easily be distracted by ways by which some propose our country can be “saved” and “rescued” and in so doing lose our Christ-centered focus.
Civilizations, empires and countries throughout history all go through similar patterns of growth, stability and decay…and eventually collapse. The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival is a short treatise by Sir John Glubb (1897-1986). Glubb was a British soldier, scholar and author who, known as Glubb Pasha, commanded the famous Jordan Arab Legion from 1939 until 1956. An expert on the Middle East, he retired to write about lessons of history.
Glubb describes rising civilizations, and their characteristics, as well as aspects that define the decay of a nation or empire. Based on his studies, Glubb concludes we cannot stop the rise and fall of civilizations, any more than we can stop the sun from rising or setting.
Here are seven stages of nations, civilizations and empires:
- The Age of Pioneers—explorers find new lands, displace other people groups and establish new societies and civilizations.
- The Age of Conquests—military forces expand territory and enriches themselves, often on the backs of conquered and sometimes enslaved people.
- The Age of Commerce—a nation or empire begins to grow economically. Many of its citizens pursue wealth and riches, while others are used so that others may grow rich.
- The Age of Affluence—having acquired riches, a nation must expand its military in order to defend and secure its borders from those who would rob it of its ill-gotten wealth.
- The Age of Intellect—education is expanded—academics and scholars question the way in which the nation has become “great.”
- The Age of Decadence—morality is eroded as pleasure becomes a primary goal. Relative virtues in earlier stages are replaced with sensuality.
- The Age of Decline and Collapse—toxic forces, both externally and internally, attack the fabric of the nation, undermine its history, economy and its family stability. Eventually a weakened nation cannot defend itself against its enemies.
The fact that all nations will eventually decay and die does not mean we, as Christ-followers, are resigned to sit and watch, with perhaps a smug attitude of condemnation, taking pleasure from people getting “what’s coming to them.” We do not ignore excesses, decadence and self-absorbed debauchery, nor do we welcome depravity as a “sign of the end,” rejoicing in penalties “sinners” must pay.
Following Jesus means being deeply saddened that materialistic consumerism and the addictive drugs of greed and lust will eventually cause the once economically dominant United States to eventually collapse. Just as the Titanic hit an iceberg and sunk, our nations of Canada and the United States are on a collision course and will sink beneath the waves…probably not in our lifetime, but eventually our nations will sink.
That said, we know God is not in the business of preserving earthly kingdoms, nations and empires. Our task as we live in “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) is not to find ways to keep a sinking ship afloat when it refuses the grace, mercy and love of God. We are not on a crusade to help our nation regain whatever national greatness some may think it once enjoyed.
Our task is to focus on Jesus, who rescues all who accept his help. Our task is to help others turn to the Bread of Life (John 6:35), to look toward the Light of the world (John 8:12), to renounce this world and its sensual pleasures, following the Good Shepherd (John 10:14) who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25) and the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Kingdoms and empires come and go…only the kingdom of God endures! The kingdom of God is our focus. The grace and love of God, not politics, is our chief priority. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords! To him be praise and thanksgiving, worship and adoration…for his kingdom will indeed reign for ever and ever, without end.
In the precious name of King Jesus,