History is filled with imperialistic Empires and Nation-States. Even a surface knowledge of history (as mine) will likely have no trouble recalling the various Dynasties of China, the Roman Empire, the British Empire (on which the sun never sets), Napoleon’s France, or concerning more modern history, the Germans, or perhaps the Middle East which is currently experiencing the terrifying jihadist imperialism of radical Islam. Concerning the word “imperialism,” however, no matter who we are referring to or what their motives, it generally invokes negative connotations… and rightly so.
While it is true that each of these looks very different in terms of culture, beliefs, worldview, and the way they went about acquiring their territories – each of them sought (or seeks) to expand their sphere of influence, ultimately growing their footprint. But the case could be made, I suppose, that this dynamic takes place on every level of human life. Whether it be in the family, where parents seek to expand and instill their values, or in faith communities, as they evangelize and hope to win converts, or in business, as companies look to dominate the marketplace. No matter what arena of human life, expansion in one way or another, in one form or another, will always be at play. The desire is innate in the human heart.
This reality within us is not bad in and of itself… however, if it is not properly oriented, the characteristic is among the world’s most dangerous. Proper orientation requires a complete renunciation of our fallen human nature, and an ascetic struggle to be enlivened by the virtuous nature of God, whose image we bear. It requires that we fight evil within us, in all its forms, to become people of mercy and love, so that we can meet this impulse rightly.
The Kingdom of Heaven is itself imperialistic – it seeks to cover the earth, and will – but the imperialism of the Kingdom of Heaven is fully otherly than what it is in our fallen world, and this otherness is what we are called to embody as Christians. Heaven’s imperialism compels in perfect love, is merciful to all without exception, always respects human freedom, is never forceful, sows peace and unity wherever it is manifest, has no earthly borders, is a heavenly Nation whose identity is Christ, and will one day fill all things. By contrast, fallen human imperialism seeks to dominate by force, is coercive in nature and underwritten by self-interest and personal gain, rarely does it respect human freedom, but often oppresses it, and regularly sows violence and discord in its wake. In every situation in life, heaven’s imperialism – the narrow path that leads to salvation – should be pursued.
As Christians, we should work for Christ’s Kingdom by seeking to become bearers of His Kingdom within us. Then, as His love grows in our hearts, we will naturally manifest it to our families, communities, businesses, and country, as authentic workers in the field for the only Nation that will stand at the end of time, which rules in perfect virtue.