Over the past few months, I have gone with a friend to see a couple of pretty violent movies. They are violent enough that I probably don’t want to endorse them by mentioning them by name. But the set-up of the movies is a tried-and-true theme in Hollywood. A criminal-underworld mob effectively runs a big city with its wealth, influence, power, and by the sheer number of violent mobsters willing to die for the mob boss.
One movie was set in the 1920s. The other was set in the modern day. The mob, in both movies, operated pretty much the same in both time periods. There was a chain of command, an economic system, and a unique set of rules that governed this underworld reality, entirely separate from the public eye of the big city. And what is interesting is that the underworld was so powerful, that the governing officials of the big city were intimidated enough that they had an arrangement to coexist (somewhat) peacefully with the mob, even doing business together. The hidden world had a profound impact on what was above ground because the mob comprised the movers and shakers that got business done both underground and above ground.
You can see why this is such an intriguing setting for a movie. Whether by fear or fascination, a secret society with resources and savvy would immediately catch an audience’s attention. It’s hidden, it’s powerful, it’s controversial, it’s explosive.
For whatever reason, I found myself pondering this movie theme for quite a while. And now, I can’t figure out why Christians don’t talk more about one of Jesus’ most predominant messages: the Kingdom of God.
Jesus taught quite a bit on the Kingdom of God (Matthew’s Gospel refers to it as the Kingdom of Heaven), and often used parables to illustrate concepts that were hard to visualize. Most of the parables throughout Matthew 13 teach on how the Kingdom of God, at the present moment, is a hidden kingdom. It is underground, in a sense, but while it may start out small or appear insignificant at first glance, it’s powerful. It spreads. It impacts the world that we see.
I think this is why the mob movies drew me to making a parallel with the Kingdom of God. Obviously, the moral principles are very different. But we, as Christians, are a part of the revolution, an underground movement, that is slowly changing the world above ground. The current Kingdom is hidden. The hidden Kingdom promises to become a fully realized Kingdom, Heaven on Earth with Jesus as King, to whom every knee bows. That’s the future Kingdom. That’s the direction in which we are going. We are partnering with God toward that end.
I’m currently reading a new book by N.T. Wright called The Day The Revolution Began. I won’t even get into the content of the book (it’s 400 pages, by the way). I love the title, describing our faith as a revolution. Upon Jesus’ crucifixion, a revolution began, where a bunch of underdogs start this underground sect that spreads across the earth. The powers of evil are disarmed, the revolutionaries set free the captives and proclaim the authority of its King, all with the hope that the world will be set right and returned to the way it was intended to be at its creation.
If it weren’t for the whole Jesus thing, Hollywood would be re-telling this story over and over in all of its movies.