Monday, February 25, 2008

The Kingdomf of God > Post 4

6. The Kingdom is total.

In praying “Thy Kingdom Come thy will by will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” we are asking God to do a profound thing. Thus, the Kingdom of God should invade every area of our lives- “a personal and social obligation: make thy kingdom come through me.”
We already heard Jesus telling us to seek first the Kingdom, again he tells us that it is worth forsaking all else:

Matthew 13: 44: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

The Kingdom of God then becomes the lens through which we view everything else. It is a complete vision for life. We can re-orientate ourselves socially, spiritually, economically, and politically. As Americans we are taught that we can separate our lives in to different sections, a compartmentalization of the different arenas of life. A presidential race illustrates this issue of privatizing and divorcing faith as it’s played out in the public eye. In a recent article, the faith of different presidential candidates was discussed with Mitt Romney being the focus as a Mormon. The article stated: “Religion has not played so prominent a role in a U.S. national election since 1960, when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to be elected president. And it’s not only Romney under scrutiny. All the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been grilled on their religious beliefs.” Now, the article is obviously a couple months old as Romney has dropped out of the race. But a little further into it Rudi Guiliani’s Catholic upbringing was brought up, and it was noted that the former Mayor claimed “one’s relationship with God is a private matter.” I believe Mr. Guiliani is mistaken, and I think it’s odd that this issue of faith lived out in public is highlighted almost exclusively in election years.

Your faith should give shape to everything else- your priorities, your decisions, the way you participate in the relationships; everything in total. When we chop up our lives into unrelated pieces, we’re left without a consistent way to allow God to shape us in all the different aspects of life, since we limit his presence to just a private faith or just a couple hours on Sunday. If you’re beliefs ARE NOT driving your work life, family life, financial life, and political life then I’m afraid you have are the product of a shallow understanding of what it means to fully be in the Kingdom of God. Now consider that sentence a case in point. Did you find it odd that the word “life” followed so many sectors of existence? I do. We even talk like this at church sometimes- with our prayer life, devotional life, or our spiritual life. The problem is we’ve got ourselves living so many lives! The Kingdom of God is the foundation for our whole LIFE; singular, not plural. Professor of Philosophy at USC and acclaimed author Dallas Willard says this in his book “The Divine Conspiracy”:

“(the) Kingdom is not something confined to (our) hearts or to the “inner” world of human consciousness. It is not some matter of inner attitude or faith that might be totally disconnected from the public, behavioral, visible world. It always pervades and governs the whole of the physical universe…So when Jesus directs us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” he does not mean we should pray for it to come into existence. Rather, we pray for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded: “On earth as it is in heaven.” With this prayer we are invoking it, as in faith we are acting it, into the real world of our daily existence.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, Chapter 1)”

Now it’s easy for me to sit up here and quote these books most of you would never want to read, and we can all nod while I try to impress you with some big word or thick theological concept. But what am I trying to say? What does this REALLY look like? What do I REALLY mean? We’ve discussed how the Kingdom is counterintuitive to us and opposed to the ways of the world. To illustrate how the Kingdom of God is total let me again use an experience with my wonderful bride-to-be.

When it came time to look for engagement rings, it was quite exciting. But as a young man fresh out of school with some debt; a brotha was on a budget. Well, to be honest if I would have been on a budget I would have been in much better shape, but the point is I didn’t have a ton of money to spend on a fat rock to put on Sarah’s finger. The pressure on young men to buy their ladies an elaborate ring is tremendous. Some of you may feel the same pressure in buying jewelry for other occasions; the expectations don’t get any easier! You guys know the slogans- “every kiss begins with Kay”, the Shane Co. commercials on the Radio (“now you have a friend in the diamond business”), the old DeBeers theme song, I could go on. Also, you need to know that thanks to the magic of the Internet many girls have been designing their dream rings online since high school! Ultimately, the message that is communicated is that your love for your bride is directly proportional to the amount of money you spend on the ring, because after all, a diamond is forever. You see the world wants you to literally buy in to the idea that your fiscal investment is equivalent to your commitment. Well, this is complete and utter crap. My financial investment is not equivalent to my investing in a relationship with Sarah, because I’m not “investing” in Sarah. You “invest” in something to get something in return at a higher rate! We do see Jesus using this imagery in parables, but I don’t view Sarah and I’s relationship in economic terms, and this is what I mean: My sole reason for being with Sarah is not for what is in it for me. My motivation is to love her for her sake, not because I secretly just want attention from a beautiful woman. Now, do I get that anyway? Of course! But my primary motivation is love, not investment. You see as a part of the Kingdom of God, I understand that the amount of money I spend on Sarah’s ring does not determine the worth of our relationship. I am not validated by how much money I spend. I am validated by being created in the image of God and by Jesus Christ dying for me so I can live for him and his Kingdom. Luckily I have been blessed to be in a life-altering relationship with a woman who believes the same- neither of us could be with the other unless they believed that. Almost as luckily, I’m blessed with a beautiful and dainty woman- who has small fingers so even a small rock looks big!

My friends we have to let the Kingdom of God inform our understanding of what is important and what is worthwhile. Anything outside of the Kingdom of God will only lead to despair. We must give our total selves over to living and serving in the Kingdom of God, in all aspects of our life- when we seek first the Kingdom of God, all the other things will take care of themselves. Let me close with the words of one of my favorite authors Francis A. Schaeffer from his book “How Shall We Then Live?”:

“As Christians, we are not only to know the right world view, the world view that tells us the truth of what is, but consciously to act upon that world view so as to influence society in all its parts and facets across the whole spectrum of life, as much as we can to the extent of our individual and collective ability.” (Francis A. Schaeffer, How Shall We Then Live?, pg 256)

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