Have you ever wished you could rule the world? Maybe just to be king for a day (and then maybe a couple more). History has seen numerous would-be world rulers, conquerors and empire builders. Athirst for more power, more territory, more wealth, they claim the world’s goods for themselves; they seek immortality in fame (or infamy). Of course, none of this lasts. Best case scenario, they continue a few decades. That is if they survive the intrigue and circumvent the traitorous plots. They set out to conquer the world, but all along, it is the world that is conquering them. Their hearts, their minds, are not their own. Everything is given over to the maintenance and increase of their possessions. They end enslaved by what they’ve captured.
For most of us, the impulse to world domination is a passing and somewhat amusing thought. We say things like, “if I ruled the world...,” and then offer some personal reform we wish we could enforce. Most of us recognize the desire to be a dictator as fundamentally unjust, selfish, and destructive. And yet, there is still something redeemable in that wish. At the bottom of the lust for world power, is a desire to be free and to be loved (or at least feared). There is something good there. It’s just that we think we will find that freedom and importance through wealth and power. History proves that to be false. Instead, our desire for world domination is fulfilled through a very unlikely means: faith.
In his first letter, Saint John writes, “the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” We are supposed to be world conquerors. We are made for it. Not just a few Alexanders and Caesars, but every Christian. The tyrants and autocrats are owned by their spoils. But the Christian, her mind elevated by faith, her heart satisfied by the love of God, has overcome the world. Set free in Christ, liberated by her belief, the world cannot claim her. Rather, all things are subject to her as she uses them in the service of God and neighbor. The desire to rule the world is fulfilled for the Christian.
This Sunday, we hear the account of Jesus’ baptism. It foreshadows our own baptism. When those waters rushed over us, it was the world falling down upon us, burying us. The same happened to Jesus at his crucifixion. But he rose. In baptism, we rose with him. With him, we overcame the world. Strong in faith, our hearts fixed upon the Lord, the world continues to rush over us, but it cannot claim us. It will not bury us again. Through faith, we have conquered it.