On Sunday last, millions were glued to their television sets, learning about the secrets that lie behind a royal coronation, and hearing the observations of Her Majesty the Queen about that event of 65 years ago, in which she was the central figure.
Those who hold the Christian faith recognise a tension in their response to monarchy.
The New Testament inculcates the view that ‘the powers that be are ordained of God’ (Romans 13;1) and that prayers ought to be offered for all in authority (I Timothy 2;1). A famous school in England has as its motto the words of Peter, ‘Fear God, honour the king’ (1 Peter 2;17).
Yet the New Testament also teaches that there is one before whom all earthly monarchs must bow. ‘There is another king, one called Jesus’ (Acts 17;7). A famous Scottish Reformer, Andrew Melville had to remind King James VI of Scotland that ‘there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland’, and Melville was in no doubt which was superior.
A true monarch has a loyal following. If a poll were taken, asking if the Queen had done a good job during her reign, I imagine her approval rating would be phenomenally high. The King Christians acknowledge likewise has a high approval rating. Millions throughout the world have pledged their allegiance to him, even at the price of costly sacrifice. The twentieth century, we are told, has seen more Christian martyrs that any previous century. An internet website ‘everythreeminutes.com’ claims that every three minutes, somewhere on earth, a Christian dies for his or her faith.
A true monarch displays dignity. The poet Marvell noted the quiet dignity of King Charles I as he faced execution, writing, ‘He nothing common did or mean, upon that memorable scene’. To some eyes, Jesus entering Jerusalem long ago on a donkey, or bending to wash the disciples feet, was far from dignified. But Jesus taught that dignity is not power and status asserted, but power and status bent into the service of others. He taught his disciples that ‘whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant’ (Matthew 20; 26).
A true monarch is aware of his or her responsibility. That is the conviction that lies behind Her Majesty’s life of unrivalled service. The vows she took were taken with the utmost solemnity. Jesus too, was aware of his responsibility.
He remarked, ‘My meat is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’ (John 4;34).
As we continue to pray for Her Majesty, let us never forget the King who has won our allegiance through the sacrifice He made for our salvation.