“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
I have been ruminating for some time about the colliding kingdoms we are living in as Christian pilgrims. If you have lived through this last decade you likely have been too. Last night we had a great discussion in Wednesday Night book group about faith and politics, about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world. We shared the common sense that the church in America has lost its focus on the kingdom of God and rooted its faith in the hopes and realities of politics and government. The lingering question was “How did we get here?”
Leaving with that question rolling around my head, my phone beeped and someone had responded with another question on Facebook about an article I posted and found helpful in the ongoing debate about prayer and the first amendment in Washington state, and the Supreme Court. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-04-27/bremerton-football-prayer-supreme-court-john-kennedy-roger-williams-1st-amendment?fbclid=IwAR0dKmDYJQF-9abG3HhY0qID8BeM6sIt0NuT9f6xX3_1HgFkvrKNhn_fAUM . The question was, “why do you feel the need to continually post and repost divisive political arguments?”
What is so interesting is that I post articles like this because I’m thinking about the gospel, the kingdom of God, and the way of Jesus front and center, and how these holy things shape the way as Christians we think and act in the world. My sense is that for the questioner, this is a political article, argument, and issue first and foremost, front and center.
In my now close to thirty years of pastoral ministry, I have sensed a great increase in the Christian community of politics (the struggles for power and control in our society) as the forming center and starting place of faith conversations, rather than Jesus of the gospels and the kingdom of God. I Often have this experience where I’m hoping to have a theological or faith conversation with a fellow christian who can only hear and receive it as political.
My theory is that because of 24/7 news and its spin, its commentary, many of us in Christian community have made the kingdom of this world more central to our faith than the kingdom of God. Our minds are more focused on things below than things above. We come to theological and faith conversations from political positions rather than coming to political debates from minds focused and rooted in God’s kingdom come in Jesus. One of these directions is inherently focused on what’s best for me; the other is focused on what’s best and right for my neighbor. And the truth is, my human self always wants what’s best for me, while my “Raised with Christ” self seeks the good and right for others. It’s no wonder that the way of Jesus ones across as “politically divisive.” It’s true. The call of Jesus is non-partisan and divisive, because it calls us out of ourselves — our rights, our privileges, our power — to seek through service and self sacrifice the good of others, the love of neighbor. This, from John Pavlovitz:
“The problem with all this is Jesus himself. He apparently had very little interest in such geographically determined supremacy or birthright blessings, or in the accumulated power that has proven to be such a seductive selling point to so many of his followers. He talked of the last being first, of becoming servant of all, of laying down’s life for one’s friends. He affirmed the priceless values of denying oneself, of healing the hurting, of caring for the poor, of elevating the marginalized, of freeing the oppressed, of seeing the overlooked; of being peacemakers, foot washers, cheek turners, mercy givers. He wasn’t in the business of nation building but community making, not about consolidating wealth but spreading it around and making sure no one went without. He was always doing the social justice work of raising valleys and leveling mountaintops. Jesus’ life as witnessed in the Gospel stories was a beautifully subversive manifesto of smallness and kindness and goodness, continually reiterating the sacredness of sacrifice, the dignity of humility, the redemptive nature of forgiveness.” (If God is Love, p. 69.)
The Christian life is a call to displacement and downward mobility after all!
This underscores the importance of our gathering together for worship, study, prayer and service, so that the kingdom of God can get into us, and get a hold of us, as we seek first God’s righteousness. And it would behoove us to remember that we who have been raised with Christ to new life live and move and have our being now in a kingdom not belonging to this world.
Seek that Kingdom! First!Turn off the TV, and focus your energy and spirit on the kingdom of God.