Monday, January 09, 2012

Participating in the Kingdom of God

It is not necessary to be in a missional church to be missional. It is not necessary to participate in the emergent church to emerge from the deadness of evangelicalism. It is not necessary to wait for the kingdom of God or even understand the kingdom of God in order to live the kingdom of God. We are promised, Christ in us, the hope of glory!
It is only necessary to submit to Him as Lord as bear His cross. Living or dying we seek to emulate Him in the crucified life, giving up ourselves in favor of the other, especially our enemies.
You do not need to change the government or pass new laws to bring in the kingdom of God. You do not need to convince large denominations or even particular church assemblies of your understanding of the kingdom of God to bring about the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ Himself inaugurated the kingdom of God through His own death and resurrection! He has done it! We are now called to participate with Christ in the administration of that kingdom.
As Christ offered Himself for all both in His life and upon the cross, so we are to participate with Him and offer ourselves as one slain for the world. This is the high and lofty goal which none of us has achieved or will achieve. The greatest saints in history have but provided a mere glimpse at this type of sacrifice which is only fully seen in Christ Himself. Christ may not call you to great suffering for His kingdom, but you are called to those around you. Look around you at the saints in your local assembly. They are your mother, and brothers.
Christ has set each one of us a place within the church and woe be unto us if we do not give ourselves in that capacity. I do not speak of church programs which may or may not serve your fellow believer. Church programs are often born of an agenda rooted in an organizational ideology directly contradictory to the kingdom of God. Too often, corporate service is used as a fulfillment of a feeling of obligation, a guilt assuager, keeping us at a distance from those who need us most. I am speaking of what you can do personally. Is your heart and life invested in others? If what you call "church" evaporated tomorrow would you still have a ministry to others?
Our ministry in this regard should be executed to the level that we effortlessly identify to the world that we are followers of Christ and participants in the kingdom of God. Our efforts should then bleed out into the world as we serve those outside the church and Christ begins to draw all men through human vessels--our lives crucified in Christ. It isn't supposed to take "Four Spiritual Laws" and an apologetic program to build the kingdom. We LIVE the kingdom first, speak of the kingdom SECOND, then God in Christ through the Spirit ADDS to the kingdom among the church.
Christ said plainly, go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teach them to do according to My will. We LIVE the kingdom, and we SPEAK the kingdom, and people are drawn to believe, then they are baptized to do the same.

The Incarnational Kingdom of God

"Identifying with the incarnation [of Christ] as the motivation and the power of Christian obedience changes our very [attitude toward others] so that we are always identifying [with our] enemies." -David Fitch, "The End of Evangelicalism", p.164
No longer is it us vs. them, but us in the place of Christ for them. This is incarnational ministry that transcends all labels, republican and democrat, saved and lost, gay and straight, conservative and liberal, and whatever antipathy this world has set up in contravention to the kingdom of God which calls all to Christ so that Christ may be all in all.
If Christ be lifted up, He'll draw all men to Himself. As we take on the mind of Christ, giving up our privilege and place in the service of others, we display the cross of Christ as we bear it in our bodies.
The us vs. them, in-group/out-group dynamic is a power struggle in the pattern of Gentile ruler ship which Christ disavowed. It dehumanizes us into servants of empty ideologies that are manipulated by principalities and powers in the service of evil. The kingdom of God, alternatively, calls us into a true shared humanity that places love ahead of fear and acceptance ahead of condemnation. The kingdom of God cares for the soul as well as the body, bringing the oppressed into a communion that the world can only pretend to create.
For the humanitarianism espoused by the world, while providing material provision for the body, sets at a distance the disadvantaged so as to maintain its own privilege and place. The kingdom of God offers bodily provision and relational integration into the community of believers as it calls the outcast its own in the spirit of Christ who was cast out and crucified for all.
The peace espoused by the world is a detached tolerance that leaves the oppressed marginalized by those greater than them. The peace espoused by the kingdom of God is an involved love that embraces as Christ embraced, making the least of us the greatest of us, the first last and the last first.
To the extent that we have not experienced the kingdom of God is to the extent that our Christianity has morphed into an empty ideology that deals in antipathies, delineating friends and foes, casting out some while privileging others. But our God is no respecter of persons, and His kingdom is not either. We are an empty body politic dealing in ideology, or we are the manifestation of the eternal kingdom of light shining upon the darkness and contradictions of the pretensions of this world.