Everybody’s got an agenda.
There are so many causes and efforts I am in favor of! So of course my mail, email, Facebook and Twitter feeds include so many calls to action, it’s exhausting – and I wind up ignoring them most days.
But shouldn’t I be engaged in all these efforts, as a way to build the kingdom of God in our time?
That raises an interesting question. Who does “build the kingdom of God”?
The Bible tells us that God is going to establish it. We believe that Jesus initiated it in his resurrection. But nowhere does it tell us to BUILD it.
The scriptures call us “citizens” of the kingdom of God, by virtue of our new identity “in Christ” – that is, that when we have put our trust in Jesus, we are joined to him. His death becomes our death, his resurrection becomes our resurrection. We, too, are children of God, and God is our Father. And we are “seated in the heavenlies” with him, Paul writes in Ephesians.
So our task here is illumined by our connection to him, who sits at the right hand of God! We become able to see his glory by the presence of the Holy Spirit within. We live with a foot in each existence: one in this world, and one in the next!
We don’t have to build the kingdom – it’s coming. God has built it.
Our job is really, to reflect it.
That’s what Jesus is describing in the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the peacemakers – not, if you are a peacemaker, you will be blessed. Go be a peacemaker. Instead, in the real kingdom of God, peacemakers are already blessed, as are the poor in spirit and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, etc.
In the kingdom of God, love is the order of the day; so is justice. No one has to tell anyone to love their neighbor or extend mercy or do justice. It just is that way.
And as those who reflect his glory in the midst of this world, our call is to live with that understanding – in the “real world,” defined as that which exists eternally in the presence of God, there is no hatred or warfare. There is no racism. There is no murder or rape. There is no need and no poverty. There is no threat and there is no fear. Our hearts know this, and we are called to live like it, right here in the midst of our neighborhoods and our jobs and our daily lives.
Not that we pretend those things exist here. Rather, we ferret out of our lives the hatred, fear, anger, prejudice that lives there, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom comes and lives in us!
And then we are predisposed to loving others in a way that is truly a sign of another world to come. After God has done this work in us, we won’t have to pretend to be loving or holy so as to give God some good PR. We WILL BE loving and holy, as the Spirit has more room in us to display Jesus’ glory!
Now, loving my neighbor may mean getting involved in some causes. I’m all for that. But Lord, do in me the prior work, so I won’t feel proud of my “sacrifices” or fool myself into thinking I’m building your kingdom.
Instead let me see the people you have put in my path, and help me to discern what I in my earthly self have stored away in my heart that violates your kingdom. Remove from me the powerful impulses that oppose your kingdom and its ways. Then let me love, whoever it is you send me, with the love of Jesus.
May it be so.