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Living in the Kingdom versus Kingdom Living – Part 1

“The church is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God’s kingship.”

Lesslie Newbigin

“Me? A princess? Shut up!”  The classic line from Disney’s 2001 film “The Princess Diaries” is based on the novel of the same name by Meg Cabot. The story is based on the awkward San Francisco teenager, Mia, shortly before her sixteenth birthday, who has just learned that her deceased father was the crown prince of Genovia, a small European country. And to keep the royal reign from passing to another family, the current queen, Clarisse, seeks the favor of her estranged granddaughter in the hope that she will resume her rightful place as the crown princess.

Clarisse is determined to help shape Mia into the princess so she can rule over the kingdom of Genovia.  Overwhelmed by this news, Mia initially refuses. The following is the dialogue from Mia’s first encounter with the information:

Clarisse: I have something I want to give you. Here.

Mia: Oh, um, thank you. Wow.

Clarisse: lt’s the Genovian crest. It was mine when I was young. And that was my great-grandmother’s.

Mia: Heh. I’II keep this safe. I will take good care of it. Now, what did you want to tell me?

Clarisse: Something that l think will have…a very big impact upon your life.

Mia: I already had braces.

Clarisse:  No, it’s bigger than orthodontia.  Amelia, have you ever heard… of Eduard Christoff Phillipe Gerard Renaldi?

Mia: No.

Clarisse:  He was the crown prince of Genovia.

Mia: Hmm. What about him?

Clarisse:  Eduard Christoff Phillipe Gerard Renaldi…was your father.

Mia: [Snorts] Yeah, sure. My father was the prince of Genovia. Uh-huh. You’re joking.

Clarisse: Why would I joke about something like that?

Mia: No! Because if he’s really a prince, then I–

Clarisse: Exactly. You’re not just Amelia Thermopolis. You are Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi…Princess of Genovia.

Mia: Me? A princess? Shut up!

Clarisse: …, you are the princess.  And I am Queen Clarisse Renaldi.

Mia: Why would you pick me to be your princess?

Clarisse: Since your father died, you are the natural heir… to the throne of Genovia. That’s our law. I’m royal by marriage. You are royal by blood. You can rule.

Mia: Rule? Oh, no. Oh, no. No, no, no. Now you have really got the wrong girl. I never lead anybody–not at Brownies, not at Camp Fire Girls–Queen Clarisse, my expectation in life… is to be invisible, and I’m good at it.

Clarisse: Amelia, I had other expectations also. In my wildest dreams…I never expected this to happen. But you are the legal heir–the only heir–to the Genovian throne…and we will accept the challenge… of helping you become the princess that you are. Oh, I can give you books. You will study languages, history, art, political science. I can teach you to walk, talk, sit, stand… eat, dress like a princess. And, given time, I think you’ll find…the palace in Genovia a very pleasant place to live.

Mia: Live in Genovia?

Clarisse: It’s a wonderful country.

Mia: Whoa, whoa. Just–Rewind and freeze. I’m no princess. I’m still waiting for normal body parts to arrive. I refuse to move to and rule a country… and–Do you want another reason? I don’t want to be a princess![1]

Regardless of her response to Queen Clarisse, Mia is the rightful ruler of Genovia. By blood, she is an heir to the throne and all the rights and privileges that come with the family line. Mia has the capacity to not only live in the kingdom of Genovia but learn to rule it.
However, until Mia acknowledges that she wants to be a princess, to rule and reign, the kingdom of Genovia never fully lives in her.

One of the most significant challenges we face as disciples of Christ is recognizing that we are graciously invited into more than just spectators in the Kingdom of God. As His royal children, we are called to live in this Kingdom and have the Kingdom indeed live in us. And yet, like Princess Mia, we may have been born of royalty through Christ, but until we accept it as truth, with all the rights and responsibilities, it will only be a title without power or purpose.

In his book ‘The Great Omission, Willard suggests, “We cannot be Christians without being disciples, and we cannot call ourselves Christians without applying this understanding of life in the Kingdom of God to every aspect of life on earth. In the school of life, we are apprentices of the Teacher whose brilliance encourages us to rise above traditional church understanding and embrace the true meaning of discipleship—an active, concrete, 24/7 life with Jesus.”[2]

I would like for us to reexamine and reevaluate who we are as royal children (Romans 8:14-18; 1 Peter 2:9-10) and that we are called to a much grace-given position to live at such level that demonstrates not only who we are in Christ but who He is in the world. My goal is that these posts will help us identify the subtle yet essential difference between Living in the Kingdom of God versus Kingdom Living. And Kingdom Living moves us closer to the active and consistent discipleship Jesus calls us to. Eugene Peterson, in his devotional translation of the Bible, The Message, sums up the aim of these posts clearly in the following statement:

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”[3] 

Eugene Peterson

In addition, I hope to encourage us to be those who don’t just occupy a space in the Kingdom of God by just living in it. Rather by Kingdom living we would bring impact into our spiritual formation, communities of faith, and the world as we truly live out this great inheritance of being royal children of the King (Ephesians 1:11-18). To understand the Kingdom, we must first understand the story in which we play a part. So, join me in my next post as I give an overview and definition of the Kingdom of God to understand better the call to Kingdom living versus Living in the Kingdom.

You are loved!

[1] Princess Diaries citation (emphasis mine).

[2] Willard, “Great Omission | Dallas Willard.”

[3] Peterson, Eugene, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Matthew 5:48

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