Christ the King is a title and concept that sits uncomfortably in a society that prizes democracy and autonomy. In fact there are precious few absolute monarchs left in the world, a state that is probably seen as entirely desirable by the vast majority of people who instinctively know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Our own constitutional monarchy is a curious half way house where the trappings of power and authority are there for all to see but that power is more theoretical than real. The real power lies with parliament. In fact many might say that real power and authority lies not even with our own parliament, but with Brussels and still others with the banks and unelected massive corporations who wield enormous power in all countries and impinge on everybody’s lives.
So while the title may be anachronistic the sense of it is still clear. It is a question of who or what do you accept as having a final authority and influence in your life? Who or what do you defer to and allow to modify your actions?
And even as I pose the question I am aware that I have used two words that have been steadily eroded during recent history. Authority and deference are two very unfashionable concepts nowadays.
Perhaps “influence” is the most neutral and acceptable word nowadays. Who influences your life? That may be the best way of asking the question that the gospel writers would have framed as “Who is your king”.
What is interesting to me is that Jesus himself never claims to be a king. That is a title thrust upon him. Jesus only ever spoke of the “Kingdom of God” a divine reality he referred to as “Father” and urged us to do the same.
Whose authority did Jesus follow? It was God the Father’s. “Yet not my will but your will” prayed Jesus in the garden of gethsemene.
So Jesus in his actions, as transparent to the will of God, is the reason we follow him, because he is a revealer of the will of God, a man transparent to the character and will of God, so therefore commands authority. It is a devolved authority that mirrors the will and authority of the Father so this is why we can say that “Christ is King” because he is in step with the Spirit of the Father.
It is in following the Spirit of God that we come into communion with Christ and can therefore also call ourselves sons and daughters of God. When we too follow the Father’s will, a will revealed in the life of Jesus.
But why should we follow his will at all, in this age where all authority is suspect? Well if it were simply the case of following the dictats of a cruel and angry despot like the kings of old it would simply be a case of duty with the constant threat of sanctions if we step out of line. But Jesus revealed a different way of relating to God – not as a distant and wrathful king but a close familial relationship as between a Father or mother and their children. Straight away the relationship is changed. It is not cold duty, however benign a king he may be but a relationship born of love. And love really does change everything. If God is our Father and Jesus is our brother and friend, then their influence in our lives is one of mutuality and gratitude and forgiveness and love.
Yes Christ is king in terms of moral authority, but he is also our teacher, our guide, our inspiration, our brother and friend on a journey that leads into the heart of God.