Kingdoms: Yours and God’s

by Mike McKinniss

Did you know that you have a kingdom?

We don’t think much about kingdoms in America, unless, of course, you’re one of those who got caught up with the Princess Meghan business several weeks ago. But you don’t have to marry a figurehead prince to get yourself a kingdom. You’ve already got one.

Let’s put it another way. Better, let me put it in the words of someone much brighter than me. The late, great Dallas Willard defined a kingdom as the range of our effective will. That is, your kingdom is wherever you have the final authority, wherever you have influence, wherever you have say-so.

For most of us, this extends at least to our extremities. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a firm say in whatever happens in our own household. Many of us share that responsibility. A few of us get to the top of our fields, running a company, captaining a boat, what have you. Kingdoms all, big or small.

And this is precisely as it should be. It’s how we were made.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28, NRSV, emphasis mine).

Notice that twice in this famous span the Lord gives humankind instructions: have dominion over creation. In other words, govern it, rule it. Creation is humanity’s kingdom.

Now, lest our heads get too big, the Lord isn’t saying, “Hey, this world is yours. Do whatever the heck you want!” That’s the whole point of Adam and Eve. They did what they wanted and it didn’t turn out so well. There’s a check on this authority.

Among the ancient cultures that surrounded the Hebrews, the idea of the “image of God”—another key phrase from Genesis 1:26-28—had a particular meaning. You see, in many ancient near eastern cultures, only one kind of person was made in the image of God—or, the image of a god. That person? A king.

You see, the way the ancients thought about it, the king was made in their god’s image for the express purpose of representing that god—typically the culture’s dominant god, for there were many, as you know—on the earth. The king was the embodiment of a god on earth.

Genesis, of course, puts a profound twist on the equation. We’re all made in God’s image. We’re all made to represent him on the earth. We’re all made to be kings and queens of our kingdoms under the Creator’s kingdom.

(Incidentally, this is one of the main reasons, I believe, that things go so wrong when we do whatever the heck we want. It’s precisely because we’ve been gifted such authority on the earth that our choices—good and bad—have such profound effects on the planet. The head of a company, the president of a nation and the leader of an organization can have much greater impact on the well-being of the respective bodies over which they govern than, say, the summer intern. Follow?)

So there you go. According to Genesis, the latest Mrs. Windsor was already royalty before she wed the Duke of Sussex. And so are you. Act accordingly.