My Kingdom Come
In Defense of the Faith
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
A recent hit by the Christian rock group Leeland goes something like this: ''Use my hands, use my feet to make your kingdom come.'' It's got a great beat and it's easy to dance to: I'll give it a 5. But I have a bone to pick with the premise.
You may have noticed that The Kingdom is suddenly a hot topic. Everybody's got an opinion. And I'll admit that it is one of the more enigmatic topics in Scripture.
What do we know about the kingdom? From Scripture?
At the very least we know that there is kingdom that we become part of when we are placed in Christ-- we become citizens of the kingdom in heaven, and in that sense we live in that kingdom now as we put our minds on things above rather than on earth. That is the kingdom that is within us.
We also know that there is a kingdom of future expectation, a Messianic kingdom that will be established on the earth in which Christ Himself will rule. God promised Mary that her Son would sit on the throne of Israel (Luke 1:32), and that hasn't happened yet. And God keeps His promises.
But somehow a lot of religious folks lately have gotten the idea that somehow we, as the body of Christ, are supposed to roll up our sleeves and get the kingdom going, building it here and now with our own hands.
As Leeland explained to us.
And we work hard enough, sooner or later we'll have a glorious utopia with all the world's problems solved. Jim Wallis, Obama's spiritual advisor, says that the sermon on the mount describes that promised kingdom when it promises comfort to those who have learned to weep for the world and promises blessing to those who are hungry for justice.
Funny. Matthew 5:4 and 5:6 reads a little differently in my version.
Richard McBrien, in Catholic Update, says that God's Kingdom is not simply something to be sought in the future. We are called to help bring it about now. By removing oppression, poverty, disease, discrimination from the world, we are allowing God's Kingdom and redemptive presence to be manifested now. When we pray, "Thy Kingdom come," we are praying that the human family be transformed into a more just and loving community.
The making of a better world, says the Catholic Update, is the sacrament of the kingdom of God.
Methodist author Howard Hallman says that transforming the world is known, in the Lord’s prayer, as seeking the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. That the focus of the United Methodist Church should be to endeavor to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. “This is a call for justice for the poor including the redistribution of wealth…it is a call for liberation of those oppressed….this is the kingdom in the process of becoming."
Apparently the kingdom of God is all about our works.
When that future kingdom was to be realized was the foremost thing on the disciples' minds. Even John the Baptist. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry John recognized Him as the "Lamb who takes away the sin of the whole world". Some time later, having seen no signs of a political revolution, John apparently second guesses that early insight and sends two men to Jesus with the question, "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting? Or should we keep looking?" (Luke 7:20 NLT)
James and John (and their mother) are even worried about the seating arrangements in that future kingdom.
The disciples were always asking Jesus, "is it now?" The last time they asked Jesus about the kingdom, and when it was going to come, was, in fact, after the resurrection:
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6 NIV)
Funny. Jesus didn’t say, "That’s your job."
He said not to worry about. It wasn’t their problem.
In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which laid out the four great empires that would rule over Israel, using the image of a giant gleaming statue made of four metals: gold, silver, bronze and iron mixed with clay. The vision, in context, spanned the length of human history.
So far, history fulfilled the vision: Babylon was conquered by Persia, who was conquered by Greece, who was conquered by Rome--now in the process of reforming as the European Economic Community.
But the vision also gives us the end
"Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found". (Daniel 2:35)
And what crushed them-- that new kingdom, metaphorically described as a stone, "filled the whole earth." An angel explains this event:
"the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed… it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." (Daniel 2:44)
That kingdom, we are told, is not "left to other people" Daniel 2: 44
That kingdom is built "without hands". (Daniel 2:34)
That's what we know from Scripture. Nowhere in the Epistles (or the Gospels for that matter) is one word about our responsibility for building a kingdom.
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32 NIV)
"Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it" (Mark 10:15 NKJV)
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:34 NJKV)
The Law says "Do". Legalism says "Do." Man's pride says "Do."
Grace says "Done".
"For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)
Isn't this build the kingdom thing really just a 21st century Tower of Babel? Elevating ourselves to God through our own efforts?
The Gospel says "Done". Any other gospel? Run.
Funny. The sequence of kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the glorious statue, interpreted by Daniel in his youth, is actually given to Daniel again as an old man in Chapter 7. From Daniel's perspective, however, a now 60+ year captive of the occupying empires, the kingdoms are not shiny metals, but ravenous beasts. The last beast, an empire that devours the whole word, becomes a little horn speaking pompous words. (Daniel 7)
That should sound familiar. That's the antichrist and his worldwide kingdom.
That's the kingdom built by human hands.
And that's not the kingdom we're waiting for. That's not a kingdom we want to see.
The one we're waiting for we inherit. We are given it freely.
It was prepared for us, not by the filthy rags that our own works represent, but by God Himself, and it's untouched by human arrogance and pride.
Is it now, Lord?
About Wendy Wippel
Last week: Somebody's Knocking
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