Personal Note: We just got back from the Grey Havens today. It was a great trip with great weather, good family time, and a great conference with Neil Cole- esteemed church planting guru. We arrived early this morning to sub-zero temperatures and snow on the ground. I am wearing my winter hat even now as I type. It is really cold outside and fairly cold inside. Oh well, back to work.
But the subject of today's post is the Kingdom of God; or more accurately how we perceive the Kingdom. I am sure that everyone thinks they have their priorities right- if they didn't they would change them. But are they right? Are our priorities- yours and mine- correct? There are things that I would love to hide from you. There are sins that I hope you will never find out about. I am sure you feel the same. But I have learned that we should not judge ourselves by the things we try to hide as much as by the things we brag about. What do you brag about? What is it you feel is really wonderful about you and your life? I think that when it comes to the Kingdom of God this is a critical question. It came up recently here when some friends did something that surprised us. I will tell the story.
Legolas and I work together here in Gondor. He and his wife have started a small church in their home made up of the extended members of a very dysfunctional family. Several have become believers and their redeemed and transformed lives have been a rock of stumbling for others in their family who are clinging to sin and selfishness. One young lady has been a real beacon of light in the darkness here. She also worked for a family who are with a different organization. They are from another denomination and look at the work of church planting differently than we do. I have always liked them and enjoyed their fellowship in spite of doctrinal and methodological differences. Last year they went back to the West. Last week they paid big bucks to sponsor this young lady to move to the West to live and study. Legolas and his wife are furious. I am very disappointed. At this point some of you may be wondering why we are upset. The answer is very important. It has to do with the very heart of the Gospel itself. Let me contrast the two views here so that we can clearly understand what is at stake.
View One: Legolas and his wife believe that God has called all Christians to join Him in His great work of establishing the Kingdom of God among every people, tribe, and nation. They shared the Gospel with this young lady believing that God wanted her in His Kingdom and had paid a huge price at Calvary in order to make that happen. Eternity is a long time and Legolas and his wife have given up a good paying job in the West and taken their five children to a hard place to live because they believe that the Kingdom of God is far more valuable than any earthly rewards. They further believe that God desires to reach the people of Gondor with the people of Gondor- or as we like to say, the resources needed for a harvest are in the harvest. So, they believe that what this young lady needs more than anything is a deep discipleship relationship with God that teaches her to obey everything He commands her.
View Two: What our other friends have demonstrated is another view altogether. They believe that the Kingdom of God means material benefits that translate into a higher standard of living. It is simple really: If you love God He will love you by giving you a more comfortable life. Since this young lady has come to faith in a poor and struggling country what needs to happen is that we must get her out of there right away so that she can reap the rewards of her good decision to follow Jesus. In this view our job of discipleship has less to do with obeying Jesus and more to do with providing every material benefit we can to those in need.
Now, let me be clear here, I am a humanitarian aid worker. I help people everyday. I believe in our responsibility to care for others with all the resources He supplies. But I also believe that the greatest joy of any believer should come as they lay down their lives for the one who calls us all. This happens in small ways and large every day. I am sure that my friends think they have done a good deed in taking this girl to the West and 'rescuing' her from a difficult life in a broken country- it goes without saying that she is way warmer in the West than here right now! But I will not boast of lives rescued from suffering. I will boast in my Lord who calls all of those whom He loves to come and die. His ways are not our ways but they are the best ways. They are the only ways that spell hope for the people of Gondor, for the peoples of Middle Earth, for the peoples of the whole world. Oh, and for you and me too.