His Kingdom Come

the_candles

As Jesse and I discussed my readings tonight he started saying all kinds of things that moved me deep inside. I asked if he’d write them for you and he graciously agreed. I’m thrilled that he shared. 

I recently finished reading Death by Church by Mike Erre. This book runs a little deeper than I usually go in non-academic reading; for example, he uses the word “eschatological” in a sentence… a lot. But this book brings up an issue that merits mention here, being related to a verse in this section of Luke. Death by Church is about the kingdom of God – recognizing the fact that the Kingdom is already here among us, and exploring how the church should operate in the presense of that fact. I don’t want to get too deeply into the book because there’s a lot there, I’m not sure I fully grasp all of it, and it’s not all necessarily relevant to this passage or this forum. But one of the things I found eye-opening was something I guess I had never really grasped in my heart, or really fully in my head either. It’s that when Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” he didn’t mean, “the kingdom is coming soon,” he meant, “the kingdom is nearby” or “the kingdom is within reach.” It’s a spatial term, not a temporal one. And that’s what we see in Luke 17:20-21: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” The kingdom is already here. 

 

Now all you tried and true believers probably knew this already, but honestly, in my heart of hearts, it was news to me. Deep inside, I really looked at the kingdom as something coming in the future that I had a seat reserved in — if I didn’t somehow blow it — and in the meantime I had to shuffle along through the trials of this vale of tears as best I could, keeping myself as untrammeled and holy as possible along the way. Erre convincingly explains the gospel as not just salvation in the hereafter but transference here and now from the kingdom of this world (ruled by you-know-who) to the kingdom of God. In practical terms, this means that I honestly have the power in Christ right here and now to do the impossible by following Him in His walk. At the time I read this I had put myself through a devastating bout with addiction… AGAIN… and was feeling horribly crushed and defeated by sin, so having this light sort of turned on inside was a tremendous encouragement and really helped pull me back up on my feet. 

 

The implication of the kingdom being in our midst is not just personal though, it’s also communal, and I feel that’s what God is leading me towards through things that are going on in my life right now. If the kingdom is really here, and we are it, then we need to have the doors open and the lights on. I mentioned in my earlier post that I’m a person who normally would not mix – that’s not the kind of person God is looking for in the kingdom. He’s calling us to do something that runs against the grain – to go out and love the unlovable sinners of this world. And I have to confess that I’m convicted by that calling as well. In my own attempts at recovery I’ve found it too easy to reach a point of  “I got mine, forget about you!” That simply doesn’t work, as we see in verse 33: “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” I’m often troubled by my memories of a dear friend in the program who passed away a couple years ago. Steve was a great friend, but he just couldn’t stay sober as long as I could. And for that reason I allowed a lot of distance to creep into our relationship during his last few months. It wasn’t easy to field his drunk, sometimes hostile phone calls. And, not surprisingly, other people encouraged me to write him off. “He’ll drag you down with him,” they warned me. Or they’d tell me I’d grown beyond him, and that he just would never stay sober. For the record, I’ve relapsed four times since Steve’s funeral, so who’s casting the first stone there? Maybe if I’d loved him a little more, I could’ve helped – and if it didn’t help him, maybe it would’ve helped me. 

 

The kingdom needs to be seen in the way we do church, too. I don’t blame anyone but myself for my choices, but it didn’t help me any that the well-heeled and goofy stoners at my high school offered me more social acceptance than many of the kids at my church youth group. And again, I don’t blame those kids – they were just being teenagers. But the setup that was there was one that let teenagers do what teenagers naturally do, instead of what the kingdom of God does. And I have to cop to being a part of many similar setups in many similar church meetings along the way. Shame on all of us for participating in such shams! 

 

About two hours ago Nicole asked me if I had any thoughts on Luke 16 and 17, and I told her I had none. These are my non-thoughts. I hope they make sense to some of you. 

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 18 and 19


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6 Comments

Filed under AA, Addiction, Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Recovery, Uncategorized

6 responses to “His Kingdom Come

  1. Jesse

    Just a note – when I said “I have the power to do the impossible,” of course I meant, “Christ gives me the power” or “God empowers me.” Obviously I myself don’t have that power. Just wanted to be correct.

    The phrase “I have the power” is reminding me of He-Man lifting the sword over Greyskull. Which is decidedly NOT how I felt about myself at the time!

  2. Meredith

    Jesse, you’re brave and inspiring. Would love to talk to you in person…

  3. Jesse

    I have to give credit where credit is due as well and point out that the inspiration for this radical new “love your neighbor” idea came from Matthew Paul Turner’s Relearning Jesus, which I read about the same time as Erre’s book and I think I got some of the ideas confused as to which came from where, which happens to me sometimes. I strongly recommend Matthew Paul Turner’s stuff. It’s very candid, heartfelt, and yet at the same time hysterically funny at times. Great reading.

  4. mpt

    thanks jesse! you and your wife have been such encouragements for me.

    means a lot.

  5. “and if it didn’t help him, maybe it would’ve helped me. ”

    This moved me so much. A reminder to let myself love even if it’s not received by another the way I want it to be. To just sit in it and walk in it. As painful as it may be, I know it would help me…a lot.

    So much for non-thoughts Jesee :-)

  6. Katy

    Reading your “non-thoughts” makes me think we can make great changes by making sure we don’t pre-judge people as we’re out and about, also we can teach our children how their reactions and actions towards the people who enter their lives can affect things in the long run. God’s message and love is meant for everyone not just those who we think we feel comfortable interacting with. In high school I hung out with the punk crowd and was fortunate to find friends who had many different beliefs and outlooks on life but for the most part they were accepting of anyone. One of the best memories I have that I try to keep with me always was an evening a group of us were hanging out in Royal Oak on the corner (as usual) and someone (I believe a guy but I don’t remember) approached us after passing all the people at the bars and restaurants. He began questioning us about our faith. At the time I was very active in my church; I taught sunday school, VBS, and sang in the choir. One of the others I was with also had a very strong faith and was very open with his beliefs. This unsuspecting person chose us over the other people (I believe ) because of the way we looked and the stereotypes associated. We ended up having a deep discussion and the person who approached us thinking he was going to save us walked away hopefully having learned something new about judging others. It is very true that all stereotypes have some basis in truth but sometimes you can be surprised by looking underneath your initial impression.

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