Monday, March 24, 2014

What The Kingdom of God Looks Like

Matthew 10:7-8
As you go, preach this message, "the kingdom of heaven is near".  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

In case you haven't noticed, there is a lot of terrible things going on.  Disease, war, genocide, depression, death.  Whatever your personal belief system there is something intrinsic to our innermost being that cries out against the darkness.  We can argue philosophies and worldviews until we are blue in the face, but it doesn't change this simple reality;  Somehow this world is full of brokenness. 

Our beliefs have to ultimately answer this question;  Why is what I sense should be so, is not so?  In a comfortable western civilized world we can hold onto incomplete answers because we never have to really face the most difficult of circumstances.  From the safety of wealth, materialism, white picket fences and 2.5 kids, we can avoid asking ourselves the difficult questions.

Our answers also have to be helpful to those who are suffering.  Even if we feel we can wrap up our viewpoint with a tidy little bow in the case of our own existence, can your answer bring comfort to those who are in the deepest pains that a broken world can give them?

A few years ago I read a book by the Dali Lama that started by summing up his driving life philosophy and purpose of life.  He said it was to be happy.  That each of us has a purpose to seek happiness, in ourselves and others.  That this is the ultimate purpose of our existence.  If we can find happiness and assist someone else on their path towards happiness, we have led a successful life.

Have you ever noticed where the Dali Lama does the majority of his teaching and work?  Comfortable western democracies.  Speaking to a bunch of the most privileged individuals in the history of the world.  Our modern universities love to host this "great" leader, because this view point perfectly aligns with the bubble we want to exist in.  Whatever makes you happy is what is important.  And happiness is only a new toy, job, or relationship away.  I CAN find my own way to happiness!!!!

You know where you don't often(if ever) see the Dali Lama talking like this?  The aids orphanages of sub-Saharan Africa.  Where the only thing these dying children can look forward to is maybe a bit less pain tomorrow then they felt today.  A philosophy of self-centered and defined ambiguous concepts like "happiness" does not bring much comfort to those in the greatest need.

Jesus has a very simple command to His disciples in Matthew.  Go and preach that the kingdom(of God) is near.  What does that even mean?

Everything that we recognize as wrong, broken, evil, is exactly what we think it is; wrong, broken, evil.  When our hearts cry out that this can't be the way it is, we are speaking truth to ourselves.  We were not created for pain, loneliness, loss, death.  You have been created for peace, fellowship, life.  When God brought forth life from nothingness it was made to be good.  YOU were designed for good things. 

Even as we cry out against the injustice and evil in the world our own words condemn us.  In Malachi God illustrates how this is:

"You have wearied the Lord with your words
How have we wearied him YOU ask
By Saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and is pleased with them", and, "Where is the God of Justice"
    -Malachi 2:17

On one hand we want to celebrate and justify our own injustice and sin, but, then turn right around and be angry at God not punishing those other sins we are offended personally by.  We want God to judge and deal with the murderer, but want Him to be ok with our lying. 

At the heart of our broken world is this truth; we have broken ourselves, and we break others. 

So what is the kingdom of heaven?

It is the promise of what God will bring about to set all things right for all time.  In God's kindgdom there will be no pain and death and every tear will be wiped away.  The brokenness that we see and experience every day will be healed perfectly and permanently.  God is not silent in the midst of our pain.  But He is patient. 

The ministry that Jesus sent His disciples to was two parts; Proclaim and heal.

That is still our ministry today.  To proclaim the promise and the hope of the Kingdom, and, to foreshadow and prove its promise by how we serve, love and heal a broken world. 

The power of the Gospel is not found in fancy words and clever slogans.  It is found in the lives that are forever changed by the foreshadowing work of the coming Kingdom.  And God desires for your life to be a living testimony to that promise.  Where are you hurting, where you lonely, where are you lost?  God is calling you to healing.  Maybe not in just the way you would think, but in a way that changes everything about you and proclaims to those around you the truth of the Gospel. 

No matter what it is that is you are broken by, or, in, it can be healed.  Because that is the Kingdom of God.  Alive and moving.  But here is where we have to get honest with ourselves.  The following verses in Matthew 10 have a chilling instruction.  If they(those you go to) won't let you proclaim the Gospel, leave them alone. 

Right now, the Kingdom is announcing its coming to you.  Are you willing to welcome it in?  

This really struck me.  We love to wax poetically about what our lives mean, while at the same time pretending we aren't exactly what we are criticizing. 

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