A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Not-So-Flabby True Character of God's Kingdom

Once again, I link to my friend, Scot McKnight who posts today on what is and is not kingdom work and why. Scot and I are kindred spirits on these matters, though Scot is more articulate than I am on explaining them. So instead of offering my two cents, I quote a portion of Scot's post below. But make sure to go to his blog and read the entire post, "Steve Jobs' Legacy: Kingdom Work?"
The word "kingdom" is perhaps the flabbiest term being used by Christians today. In fact, many who like "kingdom" would rather they not be called "Christians." This good word of Jesus', which he inherited from his scriptures and from his Jewish world, has come to mean two wildly different things today: for some it means little more than personal redemption, that is, it means submitting personally to God as your king and Lord. Let's call this the redemptive kingdom. For yet others it means the ethics connected with the kingdom, that is, it means wherever there is peace, justice, goodness, freedom, liberation … you name it … there is kingdom. Let's call this the justice kingdom.

Before I raise my hand and speak from the floor in a way that many simply don't like, I want to make two things clear: Yes, the kingdom needs to be connected to the redemptive powers at work in this world, and this can be found at times in Jesus' teachings when he says things like "if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). And Yes there is an ethical dimension to this term, besides ideas like righteousness and zealous commitment and joy (as in Matthew 13), but also flat-out ethical categories like justice, as in Romans 14:17: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." So, Yes, it is reasonable to see a redemptive kingdom and a justice kingdom. (The latter has much less support in the language of the Bible.)

My beef today is that too many today have abstracted the ethical ideals from Jesus’ kingdom vision, all but cut Jesus out of the picture, and then called anything that is just, peace, good and loving the "kingdom." The result is this equation: kingdom means goodness, goodness means kingdom. Regardless of who does it. My contention would be that kingdom goodness is done by kingdom people who live under King Jesus. I applaud goodness at large. This is not a question of either or but whether or not all goodness is kingdom goodness. Some say Yes, I say No.

Get out your Bible and find the references to kingdom and you will discover that it refers to a society in which God's will is done, with Jesus as the King, where the Story of Israel finds its completion in the Story of Jesus and where that same Story of Jesus shapes everyone. Kingdom refers to that Davidic hope for the earthly world where God sets up his rule in the Messiah and where people live under that Messiah as God's redeemed and liberated and healed and loving and peaceful and just people.

Yes, feeding the poor is good and it is God’s will for this world, whoever does it. But "kingdom" refers to that special society that does good under Jesus, that society that is buried in his death and raised in his resurrection and lives that Story out in our world today. It makes no sense to me to take this word of Jesus that he used to refer to what God was doing in and through him at that crucial new juncture in time and history and use it for something else.

At this point I want simply to mention that when the early Christians did "good" in society, they didn't call it kingdom work but "doing good" or "benefaction" and 1 Peter has a few examples of this, including 1 Peter 2:13-15...
Please read Scot's entire post, here.

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