The First Nations peoples of North America (and other indigenous peoples around the world) can be forgiven for thinking that colonization is a dirty word. Much of their cultures were systematically destroyed and the Church was often complicit in telling indigenous peoples they must adopt Western culture in order to be ‘Christian’, creating confusion, loss of identity and barriers to the gospel.
God Designed Colonization
However, the truth is that the concept of colonization was God’s idea! A colony is simply a group of citizens established in another territory to influence that dominion for their home government. Naturally speaking, if you visit any country that was once colonized you can see how it reflects the kingdom that colonized it. The people will speak the language of the colonizing country and the laws and much of the culture will also be the same.
Even though Hong Kong is no longer a colony of Great Britain, there are still many vestiges of the former colonial era. All street signs, official documents, and restaurant menus are bilingual, and there are many proficient English speakers in Hong Kong compared to mainland China. Cars still drive on the left (they drive on the right in China), and the brand names and types of supermarkets continue to show the British influence even though the colony was returned to China over twenty years ago. Hong Kong has its own legal and judicial system which is based on the British Common Law system of justice.
When God created the Earth He shared His governing authority and commissioned mankind to rule and steward what He had made. As His image-bearers they were to fill the Earth with the kingdom of Heaven, to colonize it with the laws and culture of Heaven. God’s plan was for Earth to look like Heaven.
The Garden of Eden was the first settlement of the colony of Heaven, but the Fall changed all that. Through man’s sin, his relationship with his kingdom was cut-off and mankind instead began to set up its own rules and way of doing things. The earth-colony was never intended to function without its heavenly governor (the Holy Spirit) giving direction. However, when mankind declared independence, the divine representative from Heaven had to leave. As a result, things went from bad to worse.
As highlighted in my previous post, the primary reason Jesus came was to restore the kingdom of Heaven to Earth. As described in the parable of the evil tenants and the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44), the King’s son and heir was rejected and killed. The kingdom mandate was taken from Israel and given to the Church with a renewed commission to colonize the whole world. Kingdom colonies were to be established in every nation. Those who became royal citizens of the kingdom of Heaven (through allegiance to Jesus as their new Lord and King) were legally authorized to teach, with the power of the re-sent Governor (the Holy Spirit), the kingdom’s laws, customs, language, morals, beliefs, and way of doing things (i.e. the kingdom constitution). This was to impact every place, people, and sphere of society.
How We Colonize is Vital
HOWEVER…this is where as the Church we have often missed it historically and even with our practices today! How we go about this kingdom expansion (for ‘foreign missions’ read ‘kingdom colonization’) is critical. We are NOT to colonize in the way the European nations in the past colonized other countries. The Church, as the primary agent of God’s kingdom, is not called to take over a place, people, or area of society and seek to control by force or ‘Christian imperialism’. The kingdom of God should never operate from a top-down, control and power basis. Instead, we are to follow the lead of the King Himself and influence through example and service, being ‘salt’, ‘light’, and ‘yeast’. This is not an easy mandate to fulfill. It will stretch us and challenge our well-established patterns of thought and cultural understanding.
We must remember that God’s kingdom can be expressed in many different ways through the diversity of cultures He has made. The kingdom of Heaven transcends all other cultures but doesn’t destroy them in the process. We allow God to lead in how our respective cultures can be redeemed to reflect His glory and nature. Instead of making other cultures look like and conform to our ways (ethnocentrism), we impart the blessing of the gospel of the kingdom to them, and allow them to grow into being another unique expression of Christ’s kingdom on Earth. As followers of Jesus we will need to learn the way of the kingdom as modeled by Jesus when He said He only spoke what He heard the Father say, and did only what He saw the Father doing. If we stick to this, we will advance God’s kingdom in the way He desires.
“[God’s] kingdom come, [God’s] will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven” – King Jesus (Matthew 6:10).