30 April 2013

Royal Robes

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Photo from Hello! Daily News

Yes, I watched a bit of the ceremony for the new King Willem-Alexander in the Netherlands today. And I also like Downton Abbey and all those Pemberly type things. In spite of all the wrongness that can come out of cruel dictatorships, and even in spite of the ignorant prejudice that castes create, there is still something good in recognizing and observing the traditions of "classiness," and respect for the power of servitude, and service of power, that come with a monarchy.

Sure, we dress them up and give them too much money, all those royal and presidential families, but then, they represent us to the world. And don't we all over-spend when it comes time for our own weddings and banquets and ceremonies? There is something grand and honorable in ceremony and tradition, in the show of respect, of pride, and even of our meager earthly glories. We as humans may like to "show off" because we do have some amount of internal glory, and of course we all deserve to have that status acknowledged. Why some more than others? Why pay a footballer so much more than a teacher? Or a politician more than a cook? Sometimes it is a matter of preference of the masses; we certainly cannot say that an executive works "harder" than a housekeeper, or an actor than a plumber.

Royals seem to merely have been born to it. And we think, well, that's not fair. We don't recall that they have jobs to do too, to work for their country, to promote programs and rules that the governments have either put upon or taken from the people, to be mediators between parliament and populace, between estate and country, or between nations. Rather than just sitting back in lofty thrones as we picture from our limited New World picture books, these people spend their entire lives being trained to serve and live in the public eye. They study to serve. Charles of England is an expert in ecology and business; Willem of the Netherlands is an expert in water management (important for a country dependent on dikes and canals); royal and presidential wives all take on programs like education, health, safety and welfare of people all over the world. They live every day in attending fund raisers, meeting people and giving public orations, whether they want to or not, with little to no time to themselves (except the vacations that we all read about and complain that they get), and usually, no "retirement" in sight. They also live with that proverbial knife hanging from a horse hair over their heads, and no amount of money can take away the smear of the paparazzi. They don't deserve the glamor status that celebrities have put upon them, and we know that some of them don't want it. They are, after all, just people, making mistakes while trying to rear up a family and do their jobs. It would be hard to do all that with a large part of the world watching your every step, apparently waiting for you to mess up.
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Photo of Willem-Alexander, Maxima, and daughters from Dutch News.nl
Willem-Alexander:  "I want to be a king who is first of all traditional, built on the tradition of my predecessors, who stands for continuity and also for stability in the country ... but also a king who in the 21st century can bind together and represent society as a whole. . . 
"By being present where you think people need support or help, by giving extra attention and presence to worthwhile events and by supporting people who are in need."

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"Royals" represent something that I don't think Christians should forget: the definition of royalty, and what we are to strive to be.
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Does being a royal people of God mean that we are to dress in royal robes, sit on thrones, and order other people around all the time? Of course not. So we must look at what the royals on earth actually do outside of the ceremony and the picture books, and remember the immense responsibility of "class". That's why I listed those things above: not to praise them and honour them as infallible servants of the people, but to show that there is more to being in charge than ordering people around and wearing fancy clothes. And to relate their lot to that of the description of Christians: royal.

Royalty Has Work To Do

Royalty carries the responsibility of being a mediator, a representative. We represent our Father, the King of kings, who is majesty, grandeur, holiness, glory, strength and all power. We as his children should reflect that glory to the world. So how should we dress? How should we act? How should we speak? We should do all things to his glory, because whether we like it or not, there is no retirement here on earth where we stop representing him. Whether there are photographers lurking in the bushes or not, we have an image to reflect. We should never forget that.

Royalty Has A Standard to Uphold

The original "holy family" of God is spoken of frequently as the nation of Israel was formed. Not because they worked hard or deserved it, anymore than a follower of Christ deserves to be in the spiritual holy family. But because they were merely "to the manor, born".

Royalty Is Born To Its Position
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,"
If we are born again into Christ, then we are heirs, and we should act like it. We should honour each person in the kingdom as another royal, not thinking of others as our servants, but we as theirs. Taking care of one another, putting each others needs above our own - that is the power of servitude, and the service of power that we have been born into. Like earthly royals, we need to begin studying and learning from our birth more about how to be a royal child: how to behave, how to speak, how to serve. What we learn must be for the glory of our King and our Nation, for that is what we have been called.
Royalty Are Meant To Serve

In a socialist or democratic kind of world where all men and women are seen as created equal, I think there is a danger of forgetting how to show honour to whom honour is due. We don't want anyone to be in a position "over" another, for God does make us equal, right? "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." Yet being one in Christ does not negate the presence of differences of duty, of responsibility, and of position while on earth. Consider the entire text about what royalty in Christ is:

". . . you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor."
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In the end, earthly royalty is nothing like our heavenly royal family, and as such they do not deserve worship or the sacrifice of the poor to feed their own wealth. Their time to rule and to shine will pass, and the King of kings and Lord of lords will remain alone in power. Their pomp is but a poor shadow of the immense and immeasurable glory above. And their service is, of course, nothing like the Man who came to town riding on a donkey with no royal robes, to teach by story telling and by washing feet. Their sacrifice is quite little compared to the hounding of the Pharisees and Romans who crucified our Lord. And our service and sacrifice - yours and mine - is also small in comparison.

May we be able to see the true majesty of the one and only King, and live our lives accordingly as subjects and members of that Divine Monarchy.
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