Musings on the nature of the Kingdom

I made a bold statement in my last post about the kingdom being a political, social, economic, cultural and religious revolution. And this post elaborates a little on that statement as well as taking a few tangents.

The Kingdom of God and Western Evangelical Christianity
The kingdom of God advances with the proclamation and the interaction of the gospel upon the spheres of this world and our lives. What I feel western evangelical Christians are clear on is that the gospel brings us personal redemption from our sins. And yet sometimes this is a bit of a lofty concept that never really finds a grounding in our Mondays and in our coffee drinking and teeth pulling.

And yet the gospel that Jesus preaches, and proclaims and enacts was not merely one that pertained only to people’s spiritualities. In the ‘gospels’ we see a gospel that permeates all spheres of our lives , and every cell in our bodies. It pertains to our physical bodies, it pertains to religion, it pertains to social structures, it pertains to cultures. And when we let this gospel invade our hearts and lives from the bottom up, as it often so gently does, like gentle ocean currents, all of a sudden we find redemption in all spheres of our lives. We find it in our hearts in it’s expansion and in it’s tenderising. We find it in our minds and in it’s broadening and sharpening and unveiling. We find it in our eyes in their opening and in their newfound sight. We find it in our dreams and in their discovering. We find it in our passions and in their awakening. We find it in our bodies and in it’s healing. And it creeps into our jobs and our relationships and etc. The gospel of the kingdom somehow gives real meaning and real worth to everything we find ourselves in.

Incarnation and Redemption
The nature of incarnation is “God with us”, in which the “with” is so very real. The divine becomes the fleshly, the sacred becomes the secular, God becomes man. There is a wholism if there is such a word, that is created by the divine becoming man and furthermore, a man with hands that fashions things from wood.

And in the becoming there comes a redeeming and a divinizing you could say – because God becomes man, and then lifts man to the level of God. And in this assessment of things, there can be no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular, the physical, the spiritual, the mental in the sense that one is not better than the other. For e.g. the pastor is not more spiritual than the layperson. The lay person does not do his job only to pay the pastors wages, but there is real inherent value in all activity and all ‘work’. In the same vein, the spirituality and teachings and lessons from the pastor must have real applications in one’s day to day working life. God and the gospel cannot be limited to Sunday mornings and the short prayer before our meals.  Spirituality is physicality and is psychology.

So this is my hope: that our King is in the business of redeeming.

He is redeeming every decision, every molecule and atom and quark, every personality, every emotion, every cell, every plane and dimension.

And he is in the business of redeeming a generation.

Follow up to The Gospel and the Church/Men: The Costly yet Restful Gospel

What I wrote was a critique of the condition of the church and of men in the church in the west, but the critique and the solution is equally true for all people everywhere, anytime. The task of surrendering to the Lordship of Christ is a necessity for all people everywhere, anytime.

The human condition does not change over time, and we are essentially a drifting and fickle-hearted race. The problem of the wandering heart of Israel, in the face of the conspicuous faithfulness and goodness of God, that we see in the Old Testament is the same problem in our own hearts. And hence the call to return and surrender to the truths and the goodness of God expressed in the gospel is one that is pertinent to all people everywhere, anytime. It applies to pastors, it applies to so called “men of God”, it applies to churches, it applies to lawyers, and it applies to dentists. It applies to them in the morning, it applies to them at church, it applies to them in their prayer time, it applies in bed.

No matter the perceived/actual ‘spirituality’ or ‘holiness’, the chasm between a human being and a perfect, righteous, saving God from whom the gospel flows is infinite. Cf Isaiah 6.

Here is the critical point: the immensity and impossibility of the task is not something to despair at. The beautiful paradox is that there is grace at every moment, and hope at every dead-end. It is Christ who gently helps us surrender, and Christ who leads us to himself. And the seemingly impossible task of self-denial and complete submission is made possible by the equally vast rivers of grace and mercy that flow from the righteous and eternal being who tells us uncompromisingly to “be holy, and I am holy”. In a sense: the costly price the gospel demands can only be attained through rest and dependence.

As an aside: I am not talking about a ‘works’ gospel. Here let me borrow some words from Bonhoeffer on ‘costly grace’:

  “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

And so we see the beauty of the Christian walk. There should never be boredom, and there should never be exhaustion. There is something to seek and attain to that takes our everything right now, and that will take wholly the rest of our lives. Yet there is constant help along the way. He meets us in our weakness and inability, always right where we are at. Here, we can put together two statements of Jesus, that, to me, exist in perfect synergy:

      “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

       “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24-25

My final point is: what the gospel creates is the freedom for tenacity and responsibility without the usual accompanying side effects of anxiety and being burnt out – for there is also perfect rest and constant help.  What is important to note also is that the gospel creates this freedom for us spiritually, but also physically in our practical day to day living. I should elaborate, but this is perhaps another post another time.

It is never easy, but this daily dying and living, resting and striving, feels to me, incredibly like how we were supposed to live, and how we were created to function. And here we have another glorious paradox in the Christian life: fullness of tenacity, fullness of industry, fullness of responsibility, and fullness of rest.

Now that is freedom, and that is what a generation will be called into – when the gospel is adhered to in all its glorious fullness – then the world will see a generation unlike any this world has seen. It will be the most productive and industrial and responsible, yet humble, and rested and joyful generation to ever exist.