I am writing this post in part to organize and articulate my thoughts, not only for those around me but also for myself. Truly, I must begin with a confession. I confess that my vision as a believer in Christ has been small and narrow. I feel compelled to testify now to fellow believers and non believers alike that there is a greater vision pressing upon me.
My worldview of old could simply be described as ‘escapist’. My final and ultimate goal was ‘life after death’ in God’s heavenly realm. And even though the Bible does touch upon this view of ‘heaven’ it is not the heart of the story. Rather, the true goal and vision of the gospel is ‘life after life after death’. God’s plan is not to snatch his people away from this awful place but rather to work through his people, Israel (the church) to redeem it and set it to rights. My vision has now been blown wide open with this new understanding of God’s Kingdom. “May your Kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus the Christ came to announce God’s Kingdom and through his death and resurrection, usher it in. In defeating the grip of evil over mankind, he is the firstborn of God’s new creation and through the Spirit we also become part of this new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). We can easily see that it has not yet been fully realized, all that ails the world has not yet been put to rights. So what does this mean for us ‘citizens’? Everything.
This fresh understanding that has dawned upon me (and which the early church would always have grasped) and have now confessed to you does change everything. Now, everything matters. If I am a part of a kingdom that is very real now, but the world does not yet see, then that changes my worldview entirely. I must value every element of God’s Kingdom in the present just as much as in the future. Everything that reflects the reign of our true King has lasting value. Justice matters. Mercy matters. Freedom matters. Equality matters. Creation matters. Stewardship matters. Character matters. Beauty matters.
Suddenly, faith in Christ is no longer just a ticket out of here. Faith in Christ is the acceptance of God’s invitation to become fully human as human was originally intended. I can no longer just bide my time, keeping my nose clean until the end of my days, perhaps bring a few others with me. No, I must recognize my calling as a ‘citizen of heaven’ (Ephesians 2:19) and an agent of God’s Kingdom now because Christ is already reigning. But what does this mean in practical terms? Personally, this means there are no excuses. Becoming a disciple of Christ takes complete precedence over everything else but now influences everything else. God’s vision must now be my vision and every thing, big or small, matters. Stories of corruption, injustice, oppression, darkness and the influence of evil wash over me every day and I cannot simply turn away and say I can do nothing. I may feel like a helpless cog in the massive wheels that turn but I am not. I can opt out of all those things that are anti-Kingdom in the world and opt in on visions that have roots in God’s Kingdom. The God who made this earth and everything in it is not abandoning it and neither should I. There are so many different issues to care about, human trafficking, government corruption, corporate greed, the decay of creation, the list can go on and on. And so when all of these things come at me and I feel overwhelmed may I groan with the Spirit and all of creation, Lord may your Kingdom come.
It is now with renewed vigour that I seek first the Kingdom of God. In fear and in trembling, and only through complete obedience to Christ and the Spirit, may I recognize when it breaks through and anticipate its full realization in days to come. And as a signpost of the age to come, God’s people will work to build, create, heal and restore anything that reflects the goodness of God and all that He is.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright
Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell W. Johnson
Simply Christian by N. T. Wright