The “Kingdom of God” is a familiar topic in Jesus’ teaching. He speaks of it often—perhaps more than any other topic. He often says, “The Kingdom of God is like…,” then offers a short saying or parable. Mark suggests his first sermon was about the Kingdom (1:15). In his resurrection appearance to the disciples, he begins to teach them (again) about the Kingdom. (Acts 1:3). In the Sermon on the Mount, he enjoins us to “seek first the Kingdom…”
Some think that the Kingdom is about getting into heaven. In one instance, an apparently wealthy young man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17ff). Later, a lawyer asked the same question (Luke 10:25ff). In both instances, Jesus seems to change the focus. The Kingdom is not about eternal life, but about how we live here and now. He teaches us to pray, “Our Father….your Kingdom come on earth…” (Matthew 6:10)
Jesus was about discipleship—making this life experience different. Richard Rohr writes, “The Gospel is not a fire insurance policy for the next world. Rather it is a life assurance policy for this world.”
“Seek first the Kingdom of God” means make the world like God desires! Do what you can to walk a higher plane, set a higher example. Jesus offers a new pattern of living that can transform the world.
I am increasingly convinced that Kingdom living is about justice. “Seek first the Kingdom…and God’s righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) Meaning, I think, seek and practice God’s justice, God’s “rightness.” Kingdom people are passionate about justice.
When I read the Psalms devotionally, I find so many places where the writer speaks of God as a God of justice. Justice for the poor, for the vulnerable, for the disenfranchised!
Granted, that kind of talk sometimes makes us uncomfortable. It can be awkward and unsettling. But it is a powerful new way of thinking, seeing, and doing. I came across a quotation from John Wesley that I had not seen before.
By salvation, I mean, not barely…deliverance from hell, or going to
heaven, but a present deliverance…the renewal of our souls after
the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, in justice,
mercy and truth.
Justice is hard. David Lowes Watson taught and encouraged “Covenant Discipleship” for many years. He said that discipleship—following Jesus—means living a life of disciplined worship, devotion, compassion, and justice. Then he added: the justice component is the hardest of the four!
A man went to see his doctor because he was not feeling well. He was tired, sluggish, and lacked energy. “What’s the best thing I can do?” he asked. The doctor, knowing something about the man’s lifestyle, suggested: “You can get eight hours of sleep each night, stop drinking and carousing until the late hours, lose some weight, and eat more nutritious meals on a regular basis.” The man thought for a moment, and then asked, “What’s the next best thing I can do?”
The best thing we can do as children of God and followers of the Master is advocate and practice Kingdom style justice. Leaders have an exceptional calling in this regard.