The royalty alive in our world today are critically important. They are the key to the meaning of life.
I'm talking a little bit about this kind of royalty:
And a lot about this kind:
Jesus is King.
As Blessed Miguel Pro cried out before his execution,
"Viva Cristo Rey!" "Long live Christ the King!"
It might be easy to forget about Christ's kingship, considering how humble Jesus was. While the Gospels share story after story of Jesus being humiliated, hated, and nearly tossed off cliffs, we glimpse his transfigured glory only in rare moments.
But Christ, risen from the dead, is conqueror of death and King of Kings.
We seem to have a thing for kings, queens, and all sorts of royalty--maybe especially darling little Prince George and Princess Charlotte. In all our stargazing, we tend to overlook our own royal heritage. And that could cost us our lives.
Followers of Christ are baptized into Jesus' mission as "priest, prophet, and king." Baptism confers royalty on all of us. We are kings and queens because Jesus invites us to be and makes it possible.
But how does that save our lives and give us purpose?
Consider the story of British actor David Oyelowo. Oyelowo spoke with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air on May 28, 2015.
Oyelowo was born in England, but moved to Nigeria, his parents' birthplace, when he was still young. David's father decided to leave England to escape racism. Seven years after their move to Africa, however, a military government took power. The Oyelowo family moved back to England when David was 13.
Amid all this moving around, David grappled with his heritage and the meaning of his family name: Oyelowo means "a king deserves respect."
David was a king.
As a child, David learned from his father that they belonged to a race of kings, but he wasn't sure he believed it. When they moved to Nigeria and lived in the Oyelowo Compound on Oyelowo Street, David began to reconsider.
To be fair, David explains in his interview, "royal families are a dime a dozen in Nigeria." But his royal status made a critical difference in his life that changed the way he made choices in adversity.
[Being part of a royal family] had no real monetary or positional benefits actually because it was kind of something that was in my family's past, and our name is a residue of it and proof of it, as is the case with a lot of African royal families. There's actually no real financial remuneration. It's more born out of a tradition. But what it gave me, that is undeniably something I hugely value, is a sense of self that has enabled me as I've gone into my life in the West to carry myself in a way that flies in the face of the world in which I live in.
As a teenager back in England, Oyelowo faced hostility and racism--even from his black peers, who called him a "coconut," dark on the outside, white on the inside. The Oyelowo family prized education above everything, often exhausting all of their family resources on top-notch schools. Young David kept his head down, did his schoolwork, and treated his teachers with respect. His peers decided David was acting like a "white" kid. They spit on him, beat him up, and bullied him. Tragically, they believed "black" culture involved messing with teachers and police and "getting as many girls pregnant as you possibly can," as David says.
David traces that misguided mentality back to slavery.
You know, there are a lot of challenges I undeniably have faced as a black person both in the U.K. and in the U.S. that contrived to make me feel lesser than what I am. And I can absolutely see that in the African-American experience in this country. If you feel like the beginning of your history is rooted in slavery, that really, I think, messes with your sense of self, your self-esteem and your self-worth. But to know that you came from a lineage of kings, to know that you came from a place whereby every opportunity afforded within that society is yours for the taking, it makes you get out of your bed a very different way than if you feel like today is yet another fight.
"It makes you get out of your bed a very different way."
David Oyelowo is descended from kings. Knowing that gave him the courage to choose the values of his family and reject the tragic lies of people who had given up trying.
His story inspires me. Oyelowo reminds me that I ought to get out of bed every day like a queen. I am royalty. Not breakfast-in-bed royalty, but wash-people's-feet royalty, because Jesus is my King.
Whenever we hear news of the UK's royal family or see scrumptious photos of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, we can think of our own royal status. And when we watch a hospice nurse bathe a cancer patient, or a dad hold a wiggly baby through a church service, or a bus driver smile as we board her bus, we can think of the way Jesus models kingship for us.
When we get out of bed each day, we can choose to live as royalty. We can give away everything we have, because all we have comes from Christ the King, who holds nothing back.
The words of King Solomon are a prayer all of us kings and queens can take to heart:
Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not a single word has gone unfulfilled of the entire gracious promise he made through Moses his servant. May the LORD, our God, be with us as he was with our ancestors and may he not forsake us nor cast us off. May he draw our hearts to himself, that we may walk in his ways and keep the commands, statutes, and ordinances that he enjoined on our ancestors. May these words of mine, the petition I have offered before the LORD, our God, be present to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and there is no other. Your heart must be wholly devoted to the LORD, our God, observing his statutes and keeping his commandments, as on this day. -1 Kings 8:56-61
The Kingdom of Heaven is here now, growing almost imperceptibly in our royal hearts and daily actions. The splendid fullness of this Kingdom awaits us. Let's get out of bed each day and act like we know it. Amen!