“How large now, my lord,” he cried, “is the Empire of Notting Hill?”
Wayne smiled in the gathering dark.
“Always as large as this,” he said, and swept his sword round in a semicircle of silver.
-Napoleon of Notting Hill, G.K. Chesterton
The above quote is classic Chesterton. Not only is it bold romanticism from a man who loved to carry around a cane sword, but also a theological statement. Certain Christian traditions emphasis the lowliness of man. They quote verses like Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (KJV, compare other versions) or the Old Testament references in Romans 3:10-18 proclaiming the sinfulness of man. Man is transient, lowly, corrupt, and made of dust. We approach God like peasants before a holy king.
There is another perspective, a favorite theme of Chesterton. One of the ways humans reflect the image of God is in the authority He has given to them. God’s first command to humanity is this: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Unlike the other creatures, God gave humans the authority to rule and reign. He has made every man a king and every woman a queen. Though we may be monarchs in rags, no amount of falleness can remove our tarnished crowns.
Of course, our domains are much smaller than God’s. Our empires may extend to the sweep of a blade, they certainly reach to the recesses of our will and mind. Our delegated kingdoms include our lives, talents, relationships, influence, heart, and body. We approach God then not as groveling peasants, but as lesser kings to the King, lords under the authority of the Lord. Nigel Goodwin is fond of stating this in a slightly different way. He often tell people that when they look into the mirror in the morning they should say, “Good morning beautiful.” No one created in the image of God can lack beauty.
It is powerful medicine to consider yourself a king or queen, prince or princess, even more so to consider the person next too you as royalty. Medieval writers found the way that humans walked erect, able to look at the sky, as lordly and regal, in comparison to the other animals who walked on all fours or stooping, able only to look at the ground. Though being human brings with it sin and great responsibility there is some good in being prideful about our humanity, of recognizing how marvelous it is to be a human being.