I believe that the blockbuster Black Panther movie asks a powerful question to those in the kingdom of God. It is startling how clearly this question is asked in the movie. It almost seems as though the world of comic books and Hollywood have had a powerful epiphany. Something needs to happen in order to change our world with all of its problems. Of course, the fictitious hidden African kingdom of Wakanda has no real power to change the world. But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you know that the kingdom of God does have that power. The question they are asking is how should the kingdom of God relate to our world?
A little later in this article I will share with you a synopsis of the movie and how it relates to the kingdom of God. First, allow me to give you the following information.
- A BRIEF THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIANS AND THE KINGDOM
First of all, I am going to declare that Jesus Christ is king. He has defeated every enemy. In fact, he is the King of kings. Every single knee will bow before Him. Revelation 19:6 identifies exactly who he is, “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.” As we look at the story of the king of Wakanda, we know that is fiction, that is Marvel comics and Hollywood. But reality is that Jesus Christ is king. One day he will rule on the throne of his Father David forever.
We also know that you and I if we have accepted Christ have left the kingdom of darkness to become a part of the kingdom of God. Collosians 1:13 “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,”
As believers in Jesus, we are to pray on a daily basis what Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the model prayer in Matthew 6:10:
“Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.”
Therefore, if we are part of the kingdom, citizens of that kingdom, we are supposed to be praying for the kingdom to come.
And I want you to understand that as citizens of the kingdom, we have many blessings and have been enriched in many ways. For those of you who have seen the movie, you know that Wakanda is a rich kingdom in technology and money. We have been enriched by the kingdom, not by money, but by peace righteousness and joy in the holy ghost. 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” We have been enriched by his grace.We have resources and power in this kingdom that the world around doesn’t have. We have:
- the Word of God
- the power of the Spirit
- all of God’s wisdom available through the gifts of the Spirit
- God’s hand on what we do in this earth.
- an incorruptible inheritance laid up for us.
Can I put it in terms that we understand? In this kingdom, we have the solution to all of the world’s problems:
- “I’m addicted.” The power of the kingdom can set you free because whom the Son sets free is free indeed.
- “I’m sick” The power of the kingdom can bring healing.
- “I’m bound to sin.” The power of the kingdom says that the Lion of Judah can break every chain.
- “There is a need out there” We are called to meet it!
The kingdom of God is within us. Wherever we go, wherever we are. We carry the kingdom with us. Luke 17:21 “nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
What is interesting is that the movie Black Panther is about a kingdom on earth, that is a blessed kingdom, that has some of the answers to the world’s problems. How many of you see the parallel?
We are in a kingdom on earth and we are blessed beyond belief, we have all the answers to the world’s problems. But the question we are looking at today is, How does the kingdom of God relate to the world?
This actually is one of the underlying currents seen in the Black Panther movie. Here is the official synopsis of the movie:
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
The good news is that the black panther movie opens up with a powerful opening story. And it introduces us not only to the movie but to the question at hand.
CLIP 0.00 to 1.47
In this clip from the black panther movie the following truth is given: The world is sinking into more and more desperate times. But the Wakandans decided to hide plain sight, keeping the truth of Wakanda from the outside world. Then the young boy asks the question: Are we still hiding? Yes.
Let me just summarize the movie for you. Here is a kingdom on the earth, they have vibranium the most valuable asset ever, they have great technology, they have answers and solutions to world problems and crises. And what are they doing? They are hiding in plain sight.
You and I are part of a kingdom on earth, that kingdom is now, that kingdom is here. Jesus Christ is the king of our kingdom. The most visible representation of that kingdom is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. But I wonder do we relate to the world like the Wakandans did? By hiding in plain sight.
The Black Panther Movie shows three ways that church of the Lord Jesus Christ relates to the world.
These ways represent three philosophy’s the church has. These ways or philosophies have been seen down through church history.
First of all there is this idea of
- ISOLATION – WE HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT
I wonder are we guilty of hiding in plain sight? Are we content as Christians to stay in our Christian bubble? We hang out with our Christian friends, watch our Christian movies, send our kids to Christian schools. Sometimes we look at the world around us, and it seems to be deteriorating at such a rapid speed. Sin is everywhere. Problems seem insurmountable. And so we think to ourselves that the best way we can protect our self from the evil world out there is just to create our own community.
There are a lot of believers who have simply given up on the world. They have given up on politics.
They have given up that anything can be done to help anyone. We don’t want to get contaminated, so why not just hide in our churches? We won’t engage anyone. We won’t know our neighbors. We won’t go to lunch with coworkers. Yeah, we will be on the job, but we have kind of already made up our mind about the world, it is a terrible sinful place. So we will just wave a flag to Jesus on Sunday and say Jesus come get us. Our job is to huddle up, hope Jesus comes quickly and gets us off this wretched planet.
It is interesting that even scripture brings out these different ways that the church relates to the world.
We have to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. That is a real concern for believers. James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” But the truth is that God never called us to stay hidden away. He called us to be salt and light.
My brother in law Bruce pastored a church and there was a group of people in that church, you could only call them separatist. They home schooled their kids. They lived out on farms and didn’t want anyone to ever visit them. They wouldn’t even let the children to come to a Sunday school class because they were afraid to expose their children to anyone who wasn’t in their mind totally perfect and righteous. So heavenly minded they were of no earthly good. And the thought was that they were protecting their family from the evil.
Those weren’t the first Christians to respond to the world in this way. In Jesus day, there was a group called the Essene’s and that was their philosophy. They were the ones who gathered the dead sea scrolls. They lived in a little community. They lived in a very Spartan kind of a way, in order to stay away outside influence.
The monks of the middle ages often spent many hours and days separated from the people around them, inside the cold walls of a monastery, thinking that was the best way to relate to the world.
We have the Amish that have created whole societies rejecting anything modern. Why? Because they want to protect themselves from the outside influences.
Let me ask you about that. Is that how God wants us to live? In hibernation? Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” He said, We are the Light of the world.
One of the clips in the movie sheds light on this T’Challa is just about to be crowned King. He is in a conversation with his ex-girlfriend. She is and has been what is known in the movie as a War Dog. War Dog’s are people who in the movie are sent out from Wakanda to secretly spy on and help the world. They are kind of like emissaries of good and they are kind of like missionaries. Sent out to help wherever possible. Occasionally secretly using the power of Wakanda on rescue missions.
But not in such a way so as to attract attention to oneself. So the soon to be king T’Challa is in a conversation with his ex-girlfriend War Dog. And T’Challa represents this idea of isolation..
CLIP 2 33:10-35:38
However, his ex-girlfriend challenges the status quo by saying that once she saw the need out there in the world she could never be happy staying in a hidden kingdom. I agree with her. It is time to challenge the status quo! I say it’s time for the church to get out of the four walls. It’s time for us to engage the world. When we see the need how can possibly hide in plain sight?
And then there is a second way that many in the kingdom of God would like to relate to the world. This view is not really too common in America. But it is certainly common in Latin America. It is common in some black churches in America as well.
The Black Panther Movie for some was a call to …
2. OVERTHROW – WE ARM OURSELVES WITH PHYSICAL WEAPONS OF WAR
Some of the strangest ideas have come out of looking at a couple of scriptures pulling them out of context and making a theology out of them. It is actually in the bible. How about this scripture where Jesus told his disciples to go and buy a sword?
Luke 22:36 “Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Let him go and buy a sword. I think he said that for personal protection. I could never believe that Jesus was trying to arm his disciples. In another scripture Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world, or my disciples would fight.”
Historians will tell you that many misinformed Christians in the days of the Crusades, did exactly that. They armed themselves with swords and went up against peoples and nations to try to conquer Jerusalem. Here was there thinking: I am a part of the kingdom of God, and it is my duty to go and conquer in Jesus name. We will absolutely destroy anyone who stands against us. We will fight for God. We will make the world Christian by force. How did that work out for the Christian faith? Not too good. In fact, it is a stain on our history. We didn’t win anyone. Why? Because that is not how Christ taught us to relate to the world.
We are to relate to the world by love. Jesus said, by this they shall know you are my disciples, because you have love one for another. A sword is not the answer.
The Black Panther movie is based on the comic book Black Panther. If you have been around a long time or those of you who studied history know that there was a movement called the Black Panther Party. It was founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The Black Panther movement was part of the Black Liberation Movement.
Interestingly enough, the opening scene of Black Panther movie was in Oakland, California. Now listen to this facts. The director of the movie Black Panther was from Oakland. The Black Panther movement began in Oakland. It was just a few months before the Black Panther movement got underway in 1966 that Marvel comics released their new super hero who was called Black Panther. Of course, the Black Panther movement had in it those who thought violence was the answer.
In a powerful clip in the movie you see that the movie stresses this tension of going towards violence in order to be liberated. This is what happened in the movie. The prince who becomes King T’Challa has an uncle. The prince’s uncle had been sent to Oakland as one of these war dogs. He is supposed to be observing and helping. He winds up falling in love and having a child there. And this child grows up to be the antagonist in the film. He becomes the one who is trying to arm all of the world so that they can overthrow oppression. But interestingly the roots of all of this go right back to Oakland.
Clip – 1:03:50-1:07:38
One might ask the question. Do Christian people of this day still think it necessary to go to arms to overthrow oppression and injustice. This is a lot bigger than many of us Christians have understood. There is a whole movement in Christianity today. It is called Liberation Theology. Strictly speaking, liberation theology should be understood as a family of theologies – including the Latin American, Black, and feminist varieties. All three respond to some form of oppression: Latin American liberation theologians say their poverty-stricken people have been oppressed and exploited by rich, capitalist nations. It is actually a call to arms to Christians to overthrow the rich oppressors. Black liberation theologians argue that their people have suffered oppression at the hands of racist whites. We have actually seen this on the streets of America in recent years. Feminist liberation theologians lay heavy emphasis upon the status and liberation of women in a male-dominated society. And the extremes of these movements at times will actually call for violence.
We will never win the world with violence. If so, Jesus would have raised up a physical army. We are called to influence the world through love.
A third way the Black Panther Movie challenges us to relate is through…
3. ENGAGEMENT – WE SHARE THE POWER AND BLESSING OF THE KINGDOM
There is only one way we can be effective in our relationship to the world. We can’t hide our light under a bushel. We can’t be salt that ceases to be salty. We can’t pick up the weapons of the world. No sir, we must engage the world.
By the end of the movie, Finally, T’Challa the king makes up his mind. He is not going to follow the isolationist policies of his Fathers. No, he is going to radically engage the world. They are going to share vibranium with the world.
CLIP Speech at UN (midcredits) and the final clip of the outreach in Oakland.
In the final clip taken in Oakland, we see a poverty stricken area. In the entire scene there was a church in the background. It was almost as though the world (all that is secular, all that is Hollywood, all that is Marvel comics) was pleading with the church.
- If you have the answers.
- If you have the ability to help.
- If you have the truth we need.
- If you can help our hurting.
- If you can bring light into the darkness.
- If you have the love that is needed to heal the brokenness of our cities.
- If you can go to most broken place of Oakland California
Please do it. It is almost as though they are begging the church to do something. Of course, the King T’Challa is there giving out assignments buying a building, starting social and outreach programs. That sounds like kingdom of God work to me. I for one am convinced, that we have the message that this world needs to hear.
I have three quick action points.
- MAKE THE KINGDOM YOUR FIRST PRIORITY
The kingdom ought to be our first priority. Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.”
But I fear that many have placed the kingdom on the back burner. We are all way too content to hide in plain sight. I want to ask you today. Is the kingdom of Christ your main priority?
- Let’s make the kingdom our priority.
- Let’s make bible reading more important than tv watching.
- Let’s make prayer more important than listening to music.
- Let’s make fellowshipping with other believers more important than the chess club.
- Let’s make our relationship with the king stronger by actually spending time with him.
- Let’s take our finances and say God, your kingdom is first.
When that happens the kingdom will expand and grow.
2. EVERYONE MUST TAKE THEIR PLACE IN THE FIGHT
In the kingdom of Wakanda, everyone had their assignment. T’Challa gave his sister her new assignment. We need our assignment. What is your assignment in the kingdom? Where are you supposed to be serving?
This is a call to service. Jesus the King is giving out assignments. Let me ask you this? Have you grown close enough to the king that you know what your assignment is? Maybe it is working with children. Maybe it is pioneering an outreach. Maybe it is being a part of Celebrate Recovery.
There is a great fight scene in the Black Panther movie and it seems like the good guys are losing. And all of a sudden one of the Wakandan warriors shows up and turns the battle. And one of the comments in the movie was, “Where have you been?” I wonder how many are Missing in Action? This is a call to service.
3. TAKE THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BLESSING OF THE KINGDOM WHEREVER YOU GO.
We are salt. We are light. I dare you to start praying for the people you work with. I dare you to start loving on those around you. I dare you to open your eyes to the need. There are a lot of hurting people out there. Remember, the kingdom of God is within you. Let’s set our world on fire.