Sunday, May 1, 2011

Longing to Be Ruled

Yes, I rose at 5:00 a.m. last Friday to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marry in Westminster Abbey. I admit to being a sucker for pageantry and nobody does it better than the British. Why did an estimated two billion people worldwide, including 23 million Americans, tune in to watch the ceremony and pageantry? It's an interesting question. In America, we call ourselves proud to have jettisoned the baggage of royalty in the 18th century, yet we are still fascinated by the "royals." For me, it may be the English genes my maternal grandfather passed down to me, but I think there's another reason why I -- and people in general -- are attracted to "kings and queens." It goes beyond the fairy tale bit, I think. Yes, they are beautiful (at least these two) and rich and live in castles and palaces. But I think there's something else happening besides envy.

I think human beings have a longing to be ruled. After all, the Bible says we were created as subjects of God -- a royal relationship that mankind threw off by choice. And perhaps we give our emotions to earthly kings in a misdirected attempt to find our created place as subjects of a true king. Again, in America we set aside royalty because the examples of the day -- the British kings -- were not good models. And yet, in establishing our tripartite government we reflected the three dimensions of God's kingly rule:

For the Lord is our judge (judicial branch),
the Lord is our lawgiver (legislative branch),
the Lord is our king (executive branch);
it is he who will save us.
(Isaiah 33:22)

Deep down, we know we need saving. And we know that is a king's business. So even though America is a republic and not a monarchy, we still long for a leader to save us. I remember the emotion I felt when watching the funeral of Ronald Reagan -- maybe the closest thing we've had to a "good king" in the modern American era (in spite of his imperfections).

So when Prince William and Princess Catherine open the balcony doors on the second floor of Buckingham Palace and appeared to the hundreds of thousands who stood below, looking up endearingly at them, cheering at the tops of their lungs, it was like a fresh opportunity for the British people, and many more around the world, to feel something that is likely undefinable to most: the longing to look up to someone who is bigger and better than we are.

Of course, that is an unreasonable expectation to project onto a couple of twenty-somethings who stand on the same clay feet as do the rest of us. Though they will likely sit on the thrones of England one day, their ceremonial-only positions will have little impact on the world. But when we see royalty taking their rightful place, it ought to remind us that we were created to be loyal subjects. The real question is, Subjects of whom? Certainly not of any earthly king. Palaces, royal colors and guards, and earthly wealth cannot fill the heart of commoners like us. They can only remind us that a true king is coming -- Jesus, the King of kings -- in whom our longings for submission will finally be realized; by whom we will ultimately be saved as we bow in submission to Him.

For now, royal reminders like the wedding of William and Catherine have their place -- earthly shadows of an eternal reality.

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