we stand between two interesting bookends of history.
on one end we have Jesus claiming that the reason he came was to preach the good news of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43), and on the other end Jesus tells his disciples that the end of the age will come after the good news of the Kingdom is preached to all nations (Matthew 24: 14). somewhere in the middle of these two events, we find the church with very little understanding of this Kingdom that Jesus came to announce.
last weekend we invited close to 100 university students to columbus to help with flood-relief work. on sunday morning they joined us during our worship service. after reading the two verses above…i asked the students to raise their hands if they had grown up in a church that preached the Kingdom of God. not one person raised his or her hand.
i wasn’t surprised because I have been asking church-goers this same question for the last two years. All I get are blank stares.
most church-goers are even more amazed when I tell them that Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God around 117 times, while only mentioning the church twice. our ignorance of the central reason that Jesus came to this earth, to announce the Kingdom of God, is curious.
after Christ fasted for 40 days, satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus never disputed that satan has control of the kingdoms of the world. and it is not lost on us in the 21st century as we continue to see the injustices of our world.
there are systems that crush and oppress people. there are addictions that consume us and shackle us. there are global economies that help the rich get richer and the poor get even poorer. we have an endless quest for peace, yet we continue to war generation after generation. deep inside, everyone knows that the world could be a better place, but we do not have the capacity to make it a reality. The kingdoms of the world have demonic forces at work to destroy God’s good creation. That is why humanity’s hope in ANY kingdom of the world, whether it is kingdoms, governments, political parties, or politicians, should always be approached with caution.
God’s rescue and restoration plan came through Jesus Christ, breaking into the kingdoms of this world, destroying the works of satan and establishing the Kingdom of God. Jesus broke into our time-space reality and awakened people to the good news that there is new Kingdom in town, and it looks and acts like him. this kingdom cannot be seen or destroyed because it is within his followers. through Jesus, God is in the process creating a Kingdom of people who have died to the old ways of sin and destruction and are made into a new creation.
this Kingdom life, which always looks and acts like Jesus, loves people self-sacrificially, not just friends but also enemies. this Kingdom turns the other cheek and chooses to not respond with violence. this Kingdom chooses to walk the extra mile. this kingdom does not just give the coat off our backs to someone, but also our shirts. this Kingdom chooses to repay evil with good. this Kingdom never stops forgiving people even when they continue to betray us. this Kingdom is full of the meek, the humble, the selfless and the poor in spirit. this Kingdom does not depend on political, governmental, or economic systems. this Kingdom unites and does not divide based upon religious systems, rules, regulations, traditions or dogmas. this Kingdom has one Lord and King whose followers look and act like in him in everything they do.
we, in the church, have been looking and searching for so long trying to discover what exactly it is that the world is looking for and have come up empty-handed too many times. we have put our faith…hope…and trust in our systems, plans, and styles…rather than living Kingdom oriented lives that look different than what the kingdoms of this world already offer. what the world is looking for is an alternative to the hollow, self-seeking, oppressive kingdoms of the world, and it is found in the beautiful Kingdom of God.