The New Regime
The word regime may not be a Bible word, but it is certainly a Bible thought. One can call to mind the regime of, for example, King Solomon. He was rich, powerful, with many soldiers and horses and chariots, and wives, and he enforced levies on his people and used slave labour to achieve his magnificent building works, at some cost to others. And he died. He was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. At once the question arose what sort of regime Rehoboam would enforce upon the people (1 Kings 12), and encouraged by the young men, his contemporaries, he declared "My little finger is thicker than my father's loins. Whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions". The result was that ten of the tribes would not accept his rule, "To your tents, O Israel!" they cried, and Rehoboam was left with two tribes, a divided people and a divided kingdom. He had proposed a new regime, new but not better, and the results were disastrous.
Dictionaries define a regime as 'a systematic or ordered way of doing something', or 'a government'. There are many different regimes in our world, and they all have to be enforced in some way, people are made to do as they are told. There are ruling ideas which have to be communicated, whether by media or messengers, servants or ministers who pass on the word. A regime will have its own ideology, beliefs, inspiration. Some people believe in 'democracy', others in a system based on religion, or race, or nationhood. Regimes may be enforced by power external to people - 'whips or scorpions' - or by the power of ideas internally, when people are taught or encouraged how to think.
Regimes are not only political, there are regimes which we impose in our daily lives. For example, there was a regime we imposed when looking after our daughter's dog, Tess. At her home, in her old age, she was unavoidably left to potter about on her own, becoming more sleepy and fixed in her habits. When Tess came to stay with us, there was a different regime. We had the opportunity to take her for country walks to enjoy the smells of the neighbourhood, and she seemed to gain in health and energy and become altogether happier. In a regime of a different kind, there was once a head teacher who ran a happy school, with a smile for everybody. But his successor made everyone feel small, pupils, staff, kitchen ladies. There were the same children, equipment, classrooms, books, but it was a different school under a new regime.
We, because of what we are, and because of our habits, our character, and our beliefs, tend to impose a regime on other people. Perhaps we intend it, perhaps not. When we come to the meetings, we do things a certain way; or living at home with our family, we do things in a certain way. Thus even unconsciously we impose a regime, and we do need to be careful and aware about what we are doing, and the effect we have on others.
The word regime can mean much the same as 'kingdom', which is undoubtedly a Bible word. The kingdom of God exists wherever people obey Him. It is difficult to point to a place, and say that is a Christian place ‑ or to a Christian country, or a Christian church even, because of imperfect obedience. His kingdom is not a place, not a time, but wherever God rules in people's hearts. This is the internal enforcement of His regime. We desire to obey. We acknowledge that His will is good.
When Jesus began His ministry, the watchword was "Repent, the kingdom is at hand". John the Baptist said it; Jesus said it, and the experience was absolutely good, this new regime that Jesus had brought. There was His teaching - the sermon on the mount - the healing, the sending out of the disciples with the good news of the kingdom, and the power of enforcement shown in healing. However, expectations did fade, and it wasn't so wonderful as many people expected. To explain the partial success, Jesus told some of his parables. In 'the sower' He explained why only some people accepted the kingdom, in the leaven He explained the secretness of the work, in the hidden treasure that you had to dig to find the kingdom. 'The mustard seed' showed the plan in the tiny beginning; the dragnet, how all sorts and conditions of people got caught up in following Jesus, not all genuine, not all proper 'fish'. So then there was the thought of the kingdom being future. 'Some of you will see the kingdom in power' and a week later some at the Transfiguration had a vision of the kingdom. Jesus began to tell His disciples that He was going away, and at the Last Supper He spoke of drinking wine with them in the kingdom to follow. The new regime at that time did not become countrywide or universal, but it did take root in people's hearts.
Jesus was quite fussy about who He would let into His kingdom. You must 'receive it as a child' ‑ enthusiastic, no inhibitions, glad, determined, wholehearted, ready to be taught. Jesus foresaw there would be a lot of one-eyed people in the kingdom for it is better to lose one eye than to go somewhere else with two ‑ there are sacrifices necessary to enter the kingdom, though the things lost will be replaced by something better. It was hard for rich men to get into the kingdom, though repentant tax collectors could do so. You can't even see the kingdom unless you have been born anew, there is that change that has to happen before we enter. But when you do enter, isn't it great! "I am a new creation" says the hynm - that is what entering the kingdom is as the hymn puts it, with "a lightness in my spirit" - even if there are times when we don't feel that way. And as another hymn goes, the kingdom is "turning the world upside down." It is not a safe option, not 'danger, men at work' but 'danger, God at work'. We find ourselves changed. Because of our Christ-like example other people are going disturbingly to find their ideas turned upside down. And we look beyond that, because the new regime did not just exist when Jesus was teaching on earth, it is not just our experience now, it will be the kingdom to come.
In her book, 'Heaven - what will it be like?', Joni Eareckson Tada has a section on what we will do in heaven, and which includes ruling over the earth with Christ. Joni, you remember, is the girl who aged 17 broke her neck in a diving accident, and since then has had an outstanding Christian ministry from her wheelchair. She speaks of being part of the way the regime is communicated and the way the work is done. "I wish I understood the specifics, but God hasn't revealed them all. We are priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years.... we will reign with Christ over the earth. For the creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope.... it will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. The creation is groaning.... I sense this when I see smog or a junkyard or dead raccoons lying in the road.... Something's coming, something better. The possibilities are endless as well as invigorating. Maybe our reign on earth will include lifting up the poor and needy of Kurdistan, or reforesting the hills of Lebanon, or helping judge the wicked... clearing the courts of corruption, schooling judges in godly wisdom.... teaching the nations a new definition of peace... doing a patch job on the ozone layer... telling everyone that a theocracy is the only rule in town...." Each one of us will have a glimpse of the specifics of the new regime, and we may include the hope of all men being brought into God's marvellous light - those whom He has raised, those He will forgive, those He will heal.
In the meantime, this new regime needs to be established in you and me. I came across a little book entitled 'Submitting to God', which seemed very much to the point. Then I discovered the book was about introducing Islam. Well, 'submitting to God' is where they start, and it is a good start. Add to that, learning what God is truly like, and how Jesus reveals Him.
In another little book [written by a gentleman who became Queen Victoria's chaplain over a hundred years ago] I read the phrase that we belong to Jesus, the Son of God, "by purchase, conquest and self surrender". This indicates a process by which His regime is established in me, in you.
As for the purchase, we understand that we are not our own but bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6.20). We're slaves of Christ (7.23). Sadly, some people because of their behaviour are in effect denying the Saviour who bought them (2 Peter 2.1). In Revelation 5 we are described as purchased, ransomed by His blood. We're His. Ransomed for God, to be kings and priests and reign. We belong to Him, His regime is established in us by right. He has given Himself for all the world and for us.
As for conquest, to be children of God is not merely a matter of 'legal' status, there is a process of each day being brought into conformity, time and again, time and again. A hymn speaks of the process of moving on from the position of "all of self, none of Thee" to that of "none of self, all of Thee". Lord, thy love at last has conquered!
And so we come to self-surrender. This is not just giving in after an inward struggle. It is gladly accepting what He has done for us, what we are in Him, and what He can make us. This is the "new commandment" of the new regime, that we love as He has loved. Love encompasses all our lives, and all the gifts of the Spirit. Joy is love exulting, peace is love at rest. Patience is love put to the test... and so on. Love is part of everything. It is more than struggle, it is lightness of spirit, it is song and dance, it is going to sleep in the meetings (and not being ashamed), it is serving each other, it is serving those we don't like too much. The presence of Christ's Spirit in us is love.
The new regime is love.
(Based on a Conference Address)