The Small and (In)Efficient Work of a Kingdom

If you read Chris’ introduction post, you can quickly see the military and political ties which go along with the idea of the Kingdom of God.

A kingdom carries with it a particular rule, a particular way of doing things, a citizenship, responsibilities, allegiances, and certain ways of being in the world.

Kingdom language is loaded political language and is found throughout the Christian Scriptures: We proclaim Jesus is Lord. We are ambassadors for Christ. Our citizenship is in heaven. Even the word “Gospel” itself is loaded with a particular kind of political language.

The writings we find in the New Testament come to us in a very specific time and place. They are written in the world of the Roman Empire. Caesar was Lord and spread his good news and peace by conquering other nations with a sword and forcing conformity to Roman values, standards, and political life.

romanarmySo a good Roman citizen who found themselves living in a “foreign” country (especially a political or military leader) had one responsibility in that new land:

Make their home more like Rome. (I’m sure they said this to themselves often since it rhymes in English.)

The primary responsibility was not to flee from the foreign country or distance oneself from the country, it was to transform the country to look more like Rome itself.

So when we talk about what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God, there are certain ideas carried along with it.

We are a part of a Kingdom different from the one in which we live. We have a ruler who is Lord and wants to expand his rule. And part of our citizenship means we make the places we find ourselves more like the Kingdom in which we take part.

As citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, our goal is to make the places we find ourselves more like the New Jerusalem. Our goal is to make our world look more like the world as it was intended to be, and will one day be again.

But before all this military conquering language turns you off, take a look at the passages we are exploring from Jesus. Jesus wants us to see that the Kingdom of God is unlike other kingdoms in the way it expands.

This kingdom expands like mustard seeds and yeast. Slow. Small. Sometimes tedious.

This is not the expansion of Rome.

Rome expands its kingdom through violence, overthrow, coercion, and manipulation. It is quick, bloody, and efficient. Peace is kept through the might of the sword.

mustard-seedBut the Kingdom of God works in different ways. The Kingdom of God is slow and inefficient. The Kingdom of God cares for actual people in actual places. The Kingdom of God spreads peace and shalom and love to any who might “stand in the way.” Even when others are not persuaded to join this Kingdom, the Kingdom cares for and blesses all who have contact with it.

The way we make our world more like the New Jerusalem is through the slow, inefficient, patient, loving, and yet small moments of grace. We live in the Spirit and try to bring the Kingdom in loving, self-sacrificial ways anywhere we possibly can.

We are not in the coercion and manipulation business. We are in the seed and yeast business. We plant, we wait, we knead, but we do everything within our power to make our portions of the world a little more like what God had in mind in the beginning, and what God has in mind for the future.

Other Kingdoms live and die by the sword. The come and they go. But the promise we are given is when we involve ourselves in the slow, small work of the Kingdom it will expand and lead us to the new future where God rights all wrongs and the world becomes as it was made to be.

What a beautiful movement to be a part of.

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