Two Kingdoms Bible Study

Our goal is to provide a practical resource for you, your small group, or your family, that can be easily implemented and applied. These studies are centered on the theme of each issue.
For this edition we’ve created a four-week Bible study on division, conflict, and peacemaking, especially as it relates to the political realm, seeking to address the question: “How can we respond faithfully as Christians in such increasingly polarized times?”  

Each week, read the assigned Scripture along with the devotional, and answer the reflection questions. An action step is provided for you or your small group to live out what you have been learning over the previous four weeks. Companion videos, along with a PDF version of this study, are also available for you online at:


“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (v. 1). This is a mic drop moment in James’ epistle, where he puts his finger on the true source of the spiritual disease afflicting a number of early Christian churches. It turns out that the challenge of conflict is not unique to 2024. What is unique to our age is the level of polarization, particularly politically. According to a Pew study, both Republicans and Democrats have moved significantly further away from center since the early 1970s, meaning common ground is increasingly rarer than it was fifty years ago. A quick scroll through the comments section of any social media post is all it takes to verify this. We tend to pinpoint the cause of conflict as being something outside of ourselves: fighting over issues, policies, land rights, or resources. But James says something else. He locates the problem within the human heart and the passions at war within us.

Reflection Questions
  1. Where does James say fights and quarrels come from?
  2. What types of issues tend to cause the most division? 
  3. Where have you observed increasing polarization in our world? Why is politics such a hot-button topic?
  4. What does James say is the solution to quarreling (see vv. 7-10)?


“Pick a side, Jesus!” This was the unspoken demand of the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians when they sought to entrap Jesus that day in Jerusalem. “Are you team God or team Caesar?” It is interesting to note how their mutual hatred of Jesus brought together such religiously and politically disparate groups. The Pharisees opposed Roman rule, seeing it as categorically in opposition to the Jewish quest for independence. The Herodians, on the other hand, supported the dynasty of Herod the Great―Caesar’s appointed ruler. Yet here these warring factions work in tandem to try to force Jesus’ hand.

We always want Jesus on our side, supporting our stance or our political party. We even have our Bible verses cherry-picked to justify our position. As Solomon says in Proverbs 21:2 (ESV): “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Jesus will not be so easily drawn into their conflict. His allegiance is not to a political party but to God alone, whose eternal-kingdom values cut across the grain of every earthly platform. His final answer to the question of his opponents, to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (v. 21), is not so much evasive as it is disrupting. He is helping them to see that citizenship in the Kingdom of God ultimately eclipses their citizenship in any earthly kingdom.

Reflection Questions
  1. Would you have been a Pharisee or Herodian? Why? Would you have felt pressured to choose?
  2. Why do you think they wanted to manipulate Jesus and his words? In what ways do we tend to do the same?
  3. How do you know when your allegiance to a political party has surpassed your allegiance to God?
  4. How does Jesus’ response here challenge and comfort you?


“Therefore,” Jesus said, “Go forth into all the world and kick butt. Win. Smash thine opponent, at any cost. Stand strong, fight for your right, and don’t let anyone trample on you!” (ULKV - Unauthorized Luke Kjolhaug Version). There are days when I wish the Scriptures read like this. It is part of fallen human nature to want to come out on top. We lionize strength, not weakness. We prefer power to vulnerability. And we prize self-preservation over self-sacrifice. But this passage of Philippians brings another theme to the forefront. In describing the example of Jesus Christ, Paul uses words and phrases like “humility,” “others above yourselves,” “not looking to your own interests,” “made himself nothing,” “servant,” “obedient,” “death,” and “cross.” Jesus’ exaltation came through defeat. This is the way of the Cross. It is a high calling which demands dying to ourselves that we might then live for Christ. In a world where pride is considered a virtue, Christians have the opportunity to approach the public square with an attitude of humility.

Reflection Questions
  1. How do the values championed by Jesus in the passage contrast with the values of the world around us?
  2. Who are some of your earthly heroes? What qualities do they exhibit?
  3. Is it possible to win an argument yet lose a relationship? Which is more important? How do you know what issues are worth “going to the mat” over?
  4. Why is it so hard to love someone with whom you adamantly disagree? How can Jesus help you with this?


In today’s world of great disharmony, the pursuit of reconciliation sounds especially sweet. Reconciliation has been defined as “the act of reestablishing friendship between two persons who are on bad terms.” We know what it means to be on bad terms with other people, yet we rarely pause to consider that the same is true in our relationship with God. By nature, we are his enemies. Our sin is a direct rebellion against the God of the universe, and we can’t seem to stop ourselves from pulling the trigger. Left to our own devices, we don’t have the capacity to initiate a divine ceasefire: to fix the sin problem. But God does, because while we were still his enemies, Christ died for us (Rom 5:6-10). Not only does he choose to not count our transgressions against us, but he absorbs the punishment himself at the cross. This describes the vertical dimension of reconciliation. But there is a horizontal dimension, too. Having been reconciled to God through faith, he commissions us to go and be reconciled to others in the same way.

Reflection Questions
  1. According to this passage, how can we be reconciled to God? What are the effects of this reconciliation?
  2. For God to reconcile us to himself, he absorbed the cost. Who absorbs the cost in human relationships? Is it always fair? Consider fairness vs. mercy. Which takes priority?
  3. When have you witnessed an example of reconciliation in your own life?
  4. Reflection Question: Who is one person in your life you wish you were on better terms with? How can you pray about this? What might it mean to be an ambassador of reconciliation in this situation?


One of the unfortunate side effects of our long-term political division, bolstered by 24-hour news cycles and a social-media saturated culture, has been the development of an “us vs. them” mentality. The other side is painted as the irrational enemy, refusing to meet the totally reasonable expectations of our side. Smear campaigns, name-calling, and anger are common reactions when our demands and expectations are not met. We know we have an idol on our hands when our godly desires become selfish demands. When the unspoken attitude is, “I need ‘X’ to happen or I won’t be OK anymore,” we’re dealing with an idol: something we fear, love, and trust more than anything else.

As a group, identify and discuss four such idols in the world around us (one each week). Pray that God would help us to see them, resist them, and turn from them. In what ways can we move beyond these idols in an effort to reconcile with those who oppose us?

List the identified idols here:
  1. ____________________________________
  2. ____________________________________
  3. ____________________________________
  4. ____________________________________
Rev. Luke Kjolhaug is Pastor at Elim Lutheran Church in Osakis, Minnesota.

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