Original kingdom, or original sin? (Matthew 19:14)

What do you see when you look at people?

When you look at people, what do you see? Original sin, or original kingdom?

Since at least the fourth century, theologians have described the essential human state as original sin. Adam and Eve lost their pure identity and become corrupt, so the children they produced received their corrupted nature. Their children passed on this corrupted nature, so every human is already corrupted at birth. On this view, the whole of humanity is corrupt: conceived in sin, sinful by nature at birth, forever doomed, unless God does a work of grace to change an individual’s status.

But that doesn’t match what Jesus saw in people. The disciples thought people were pestering Jesus, so they stepped in to triage and divert the less significant ones: the children. Jesus said they were seeing the children the wrong way. Literally translated, Jesus described the children like this: The kingdom of heaven is such (Matthew 19:14).

That’s a very different view of what it means to be human.

To be human is to be the image of the divine — the living, breathing, functioning, visible representation of our sovereign’s authority, care, and active governance in his earthly realm. Yes, that’s been tarnished so we’re not glowing with God’s glory, but it hasn’t been lost. It’s still our identity. It’s most visible in the ones who have the least power over others, the least honour from others.

The people who are small in the current social structure are where we see original kingdom most clearly.

Effects of the original sin

There’s no question that human sin has affected God’s world and all who live in it. Labelling it as the fall feels inadequate: the rebellion seems more appropriate for what was effectively a coup, an attempt to declare our autonomy from God’s kingship, so earth would no longer be a kingdom of heaven.

But the coup failed. That was clear by the end of the day when the sovereign was still in his garden, and his servants are too frightened to face him. The wise king’s authority was beyond dispute as he investigated their treason, explaining how they had damaged relationships with the creatures, each other, and creation itself (Genesis 3).

Yes, the rebellion has misshaped life before we were born. The earth is still God’s kingdom, but it’s enslaved to evil and death. Every child is born into slavery to sin and death.

Language matters. Our labels shape how we see people. See a newborn as a child born into slavery and you’ll respond very differently than if you see her as a sinful individual.

In the faces of the children, see our human identity. See the living image of our eternal sovereign, original kingdom, and the world to come.

Good news of the kingdom

The gospel is the good news that God has ended the tyranny of sin and death by sending the Son who shares the eternal throne by the most astounding means. Without any conquest to force us back under his Father’s reign, the Son announced the kingdom of God and died at the hands of those who slaughtered God’s anointed rather than recognize him.

When they’d done their worst, God raised him up out of death, entrusting all authority to him. That’s how our true sovereign broke the grip of sin and death on his earthly realm. God’s unfailing love and astonishing grace toward the world that killed his Son is what ultimately breaks the chains of sin and death that had enslaved his world.

That’s the gospel Jesus proclaimed: the good news of the kingdom (4:23; 9:35; 24:14). In the faces of the powerful, he saw his coming death, the rejection of God’s authority (16:21; 17:23; 21:38; 22:6; 23:37). In the faces of the powerless, he saw heaven’s kingdom (5:5; 18:2; 19:14).

Original kingdom is in our genes. Look for it wherever you see people. Discover that God-awareness as you share the good news of God restoring the world to his liberating reign in Christ.

Open Matthew 19:14.

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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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