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A little life, a little school, and a smidget on a kingdom

September 22, 2008

Well, as you can see, I’m not posting my 5 times a month.  We are in the thick of school (3 more weeks until a two week break praise the Lord!), and I have begun my masters online, and that while very rewarding, is taking up an immense ammount of time.  Be gracious with me! 🙂  I want to be a faithful blogger, but sometimes it’s the last thing on my mind.

School is going pretty well.  I’m teaching The Outsiders to grade 11 and 12.  It’s a story about two rival gangs (the greasers and the socials…thing the movie Grease for a visual of the greasers).  It’s a story about belonging, class and racial divisions, loss of innocence, and identity.  While it’s a grade 8 reading level, it’s a solid level for this age group.  I would actually teach it for 10th grade next year if I had to it to do over again. 

In 10th grade right now we are covering Mythology by Edith Hamilton in preparation to read The Odyssey  next semester.  We are about to read some of the famous love stories such as Cupid and Psyche

Okay, now for a little bit on the kingdom of God.  My class that I’m taking this semester (I can only handle one being a teacher and all…) is all about what the kingdom of God looks like.  We are discussing things such as:  is the church and the kingdom the same thing?  Is the kingdom a spiritual kingdom or a physical kingdom?  Is it here or in the future (or both)?  Is it substitutionary atonement, signs and wonders, social justice, etc.?  I find that even as much as I’ve thought about the kingdom, the majority of Christians, myself included, may be somewhat unclear or foggy on what the kingdom is.  And since th gospel that Jesus preached was “the kingdom” we should probably be clear on what he was preaching. 

I wrote a reflection on the book Kingdom Come by Allen Wakabayashi recently and in this paper I talked about how the kingdom of God is much more than a particular view of the atonement (penal subsitution), and as a Charismatic, I’ve come to the startling realization that the kingdom is much more than “signs and wonders.”  So here is an excerpt from my paper.  In fair warning, this paper was seven pages, so I’m only taking a small section.  Take that into consideration.  Here it is:

          Secondly, in terms of what the kingdom looks like, rather than taking an unnecessarily narrow view of Jesus’ ministry, Wakabayashi’s view of the kingdom of God takes seriously all aspects of Christ’s ministry to the world.  This includes not limiting the kingdom to a certain model of the atonement, a certain way to evangelize, or certain times to “live out” the Christian faith.  Wakabayashi writes that as kingdom people, “We are called to live out His reign in everyday life.  There is no sacred-secular split under God’s kingship,” and even more to the point:  “To reach out in love to people means that we cannot overlook people’s physical needs for the sake of their spiritual needs.”[1]  I cannot agree more.  Modern evangelicalism has embraced an unhealthy and even damaging view of what it means to share the gospel of Christ.  With an undue focus on confronting people with their sin, hammering them with the Law, and then offering a one-dimensional view of salvation (penal-substitution atonement) to “deliver them from the pit of hell” (imagine my best revival preacher voice here), we have proven how shallow our view of Christ really is. 

          An atheist I know keeps a picture on his webpage that captures the point well:  A homeless man with only one sock in the middle of a freezing winter day is holding up a sign that says “God is a sock.”  This man is not thinking of his eternal destiny.  Until his physical needs are met, no amount of “confronting” him concerning his eternal future will take his mind (and heart) off the focus that his foot is freezing.  A right view of the kingdom understands that Jesus first met people’s needs, and only then, did he proceed to give them “the words of eternal life.”  The kingdom of God seeks to bring the full restoration of God now, not just security for a heavenly abode later.

            My experience growing up in a Charismatic tradition brings up another issue with seeing the kingdom as one dimensional.  Charismatic[2] believers generally equate the kingdom of God with “signs and wonders.”  After all, when Jesus commissioned His disciples and sent them out (see Matthew 10), he told them to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and tell the people that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Now I will be the first to say that I believe that the miraculous is vital to a full expression of the kingdom of God.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are a tangible expression that Christ’s kingdom has indeed arrived.  However, this too, has become an unhealthy focus when it undermines the Church’s responsibility to feed the poor, to defend the defenseless, and to heal the broken-hearted.  Jesus not only healed people, but he fed them too.  We as communities of believers (especially in the West) have the means to meet people’s needs.  When we only look at the more “exalted” or noticeable expressions of the kingdom (i.e., miracles), we are ignoring the truth that the kingdom is about the full reign of God impacting every aspect of humanity.

Well…that’s a little more than a smidget, but there you go. 

Be blessed.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    September 23, 2008 8:28

    Excellent points about the Kingdom, bro. Sounds like a great paper.

    It’s like we are all intrinsically hard-wired to understand a holisitic presentation of the gospel. The “full” reign includes it all and holds all aspects – spiritual, social, emotional, and physical – in a balanced tension of non-hierarchical importance. It’s all important to God. Of course, I agree with your estimation of penal-substitution as a “one-dimensional view of salvation.” It’s directed inward, not outward. Good thoughts, man…

    Sam

  2. Tracey permalink
    September 23, 2008 8:19

    Hey,
    This was great, I can’t explain it but it soothed my heart in a way…you know with what we are going through right now…it made me feel like this summer wasn’t a total waste.
    We can talk more about that later.
    I love you,
    MOM

  3. jonathangroover permalink*
    September 26, 2008 12:29

    Sam

    Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, holistic is the key. It’s so easy for our nature to gravitate towards extremes, but it’s like you said about God being like a diamond…He has so many beautiful facets, that the more we can embrace a holistic approach the better off we will be. I also like in your post how you talk about God’s attributes are grounded in His love. Love is holistic!

    Mom

    I agree. I think my understanding of the kingdom is expanding to cover just what we did this summer…be there for someone else. Loving others.

  4. Brie permalink
    October 1, 2008 9:14

    Yes, it is absolutely about helping people to meet their physical needs. I love the picture about the sock. It puts things into perspective. Our church has started a program for feeding the hungry in our community. Someone has a connection with getting MRE’s from the military that are about 3,000 calories per meal. We get them by the truckload or palate? Individual members have them, and also, we have spread the word that people can come by the church to receive them. It has been very successful so far. Just trying to find a balance between helping people and not becoming a welfare program, ya know? Plus we have now heard that they are being traded for things like drugs and such, so depressing. But I try not to focus on that news. I know that the majority of people receiving it are getting their bellies full and will be contemplating where that food really came from.

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