Will We Go The World’s Way Or Another Way?
We’ve been invited to participate in the Kingdom of God—right here, right now. This isn’t one of those “mark your calendar” invitations for a future date.
There is a default kingdom we have been experiencing and functioning in for our entire lives… the kingdom of the world. It has its perspectives, its attitudes, its practices, its methods – it’s ways. Because we have spent our lives deep inside the kingdom of the world, its ways come naturally to us.
Richard Rohr, in his book Breathing Underwater, said, “Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often have been given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else—and often more so, I’m afraid.”
The drift towards default – the kingdom of the world and its ways – is more widespread in American Christianity than we realize. There is much that falls under the label “Christian” that doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God at all—but instead looks exactly like the kingdom of the world.
There is, however, another way. A different and better way. The Kingdom of God way.
The Kingdom of God doesn’t have the same rules, values, power structures, perspectives, attitudes, practices, methods, or ways as the kingdom of the world.
What works in one place doesn’t in the other.
It’s important for us to understand how upside-down the Kingdom of God is compared to the kingdom of the world. The values and methods embraced by these kingdoms are almost always polar opposites…
Like when Jesus said, “You know how things work in this world: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You hurt me and I will hurt you. This is the way of the world. But I’m telling you there is another way—a different and better way. I say, don’t resist the evil person. If you are slapped on your right cheek, turn and let them slap you on the left cheek also.”
Do you see the contrast? There are ways in which the world functions and yet there is another way for those who are participating in the Kingdom of God.
There is a prayer known as The Prayer of St. Francis. It is both beautiful and challenging. It recognizes the reality of how things function in the world, and asks for help to participate in the Kingdom of God ways.
- Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
- Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
- Where there is injury, pardon;
- where there is discord, union;
- Where there is error, truth;
- Where there is doubt, faith;
- Where there is despair, hope;
- Where there is darkness, light;
- And where there is sadness, joy.
- O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
- To be consoled as to console;
- To be understood as to understand;
- To be loved as to love.
- For it is in giving that we receive;
- It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
- And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Wrapping up, here is a quote from Keith Giles that further highlights the contrast of the kingdoms and their ways:
“If Jesus says we should love our enemy, the anti-Christ says we should torture them. If Jesus commands us to bless those who curse us, the anti-Christ urges us to make war against them. If Jesus says we should pray for those who persecute us, the anti-Christ says we ought to oppress and imprison them. If Jesus tells us to care for the poor, the anti-Christ says we should just ignore them.”
You might also enjoy these posts:
Where Streams Flow Uphill: This Upside Down Kingdom
It Sucks To Be A Racists (Sexist, Classist) In The Kingdom Of God
Whiteboard Session: What Is The Kingdom Of God?
As I sit and contemplate, it amazes me that I’ve heard this message almost my entire life, yet I’ve spent most of my life failing at being a good citizen of either kingdom – perhaps because I’m trying to be good at both.
I really enjoy what you write Brian. The St. Francis prayer is awesome- I remember memorizing it at dinner with you and Ashah after coming home from Italy. Such a special time. Thank you for embracing the beautiful things we experienced there. I love you!
I have found it a new experience reading the Gospel of Luke with an eye focused on what Jesus really did and said that highlights His way of thinking and operating in His kingdom while teaching His disciples. After reading through Scripture so many years and it being so familiar, I need a freshening-up of insight.
It’s the subtle difference, I think, between knowing about Jesus and Scripture, and knowing what His kingdom entails. As an American Christian, I’ve been raised with “what can Jesus do for you”, how can I get closer to Him, experience His presence more, pray more effectively, etc., etc., etc. All good things and not outside of “being a good Christian”. The thing I’ve (we?) been missing is how to change that mostly inward focus and American-culture-focus to what Jesus focused on and did and what that will look like within the culture we live in. Quite different than what the majority of us heard who have grown up in the church, especially through the 70′s, to the turn of the current century.