“Our Father, your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” – the Lord
I was sharing a conversation with one of my high school students a couple months ago. She was being refreshingly honest and expressed her frustrations with the Christian faith and her personal struggles. Somewhere along the lines, we landed at a topic regarding the Christian life. Her statement was that the life of following Jesus appears to be quite boring in comparison to following the high school crowd which leads to a stimulated life of partying, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. These of course, are all struggles that don’t necessarily end once we graduate.
When dealing with sin, whether I’m speaking to a high school student or a fellow peer, I don’t like to spend time speaking about the awful calamity of sin, rather, I prefer to elevate the beauty of a holy lifestyle. People know that sin is bad, the church has made that perfectly clear. The last thing people need from us is to continue to spend 95% of our energy pointing out their flaws and then offering the last 5% of the time providing a solution without any transformative power attached. That is like going to a hospital where the doctor spends the first 40 minutes giving you all the graphic details of your disease and how it will spread to death, then spends the last 5 minutes explaining the medication. You then ask if it will cure the disease and to which he replies, “I believe it will, but there’s no way of knowing. Just have faith.” I can’t help but to feel that part of the Church proclaims the gospel in such a manner. What we need is a gospel of power. The true gospel of the kingdom.
Back to my conversation with the student. In response to her honest accusation of the Christian life seeming boring, I asked her to point out one story in the entire Bible that was boring. She of course couldn’t and realized my point quickly, she is a bright kid. The authentic life of following Jesus is far from boring. It is radical. What has been made boring, is what the Church has created in the Christian faith. The Church today must be cautious of the religious spirit. History has shown the far too common mistake of overcomplicating our glorious faith, creating division over issues that shouldn’t cause separation, and speaking with a mouth of hatred rather than love. I will say, as a disclaimer, that there are many, many awesome churches that give me hope for the future of Christ’s body. And it is through those many churches that my philosophy is edified by seeing it played out effectively and in the wisdom of Christ.
Truly, I understood the heart of this ROCKHARBOR High School student, what she was professing, was a deep feeling that all of man feels. We as humans are born with an innate desire for excitement, joy, adventure, and fun. It is important that we know God’s nature as we are made in his image. God is in a good mood. He is full of adventure and fun. The Author of life knows how to write a good story. So it makes sense that when we choose to follow him and a life of dullness, depression, and anxiety follows, we as children of God grow confused and frustrated. The problem isn’t God or his guidelines to life, the problem more often then not starts with us and our perspective of life.
When I look across the room of my high school students, or various adult congregations around California, I can’t help but to see an eerily similar look on the face. This facial expression has reminded me of the very face that I saw recently when I went to the zoo. Many who know me, know that I have a rather unhealthy adoration for lions. So naturally, when I got to the zoo, I went to lion cage as quickly as possible. Instead of excitement, my heart broke when I saw the lion. He looked depressed. He moaned and groaned. It was clear that this claustrophobic cage wasn’t the abundant and fulfilling life that this king of the jungle deserved. So many Christians are living as that lion. If Jesus is the powerful Lion of Judah, then we are all his Cubs. Christ is the King of all creation, and his dominion gives us the freedom to roam the world advancing his kingdom throughout the earth. As Christians, we have been given the keys to live a life of adventure and freedom, full of purpose and truth. If we remain in our cages of fear, then we will be like that same lion, confused, lost, and sad. So what does this Kingdom lifestyle look like today? As Jesus told his disciples, this mission applies to us as well,
Now my quick theological statement: I believe that the Kingdom is both now, and not yet. There is a paradox attached to this dynamic teaching. It would be irrational for me to state that God’s Kingdom is fully established on the earth today. That won’t happen until completion comes and Christ returns (1 Corinthians 13:8). However, according to the Biblical standard, if we are preaching Jesus as the Messiah, then works of the kingdom are meant to follow. This is the Gospel. And remember, Jesus specified that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).
In Luke 4:17, Christ quoted Isaiah and said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This same Spirit that Jesus described, is the same Holy Spirit that lives in the modern believer. I believe this to be the identical assignment passed down to us to continue in. Now I am not promoting some sort of delusional living to where we hyper spiritualize every given situation. However, I do believe that I have found a responsible philosophy that allows us to advance the kingdom in an effective way. Although I believe in the theological statement that the kingdom is both now and not yet, I choose to live with a perspective of kingdom now. If I live my life with the perspective of kingdom not yet, then the power of my ministry will be limited. I simply won’t expect the God of miracles to come through in situations. However, with a mindset fixed on heavenly realities, then I am in a position to take more risks, and thus establish the kingdom of God in unmarked territories.
“nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21