The Kingdom of God is near…
This phrase was the first and primary message of Jesus when he was on earth. It was central to all of his other teachings. It was his passion. It was his purpose. It was understood by some. Lost on others. Religious leaders hated this message. The poor and ostracized considered it an invitation into a better life.
So, what does it even mean? And, how does it affect us in 2017?
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News (Good News of the Kingdom of God). “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:14-15 (NLT)
What did Jesus mean?
Many people believe Jesus was talking about “heaven” coming to earth in the form of himself. This is true…kind of. It’s a little more involved than this. Jesus is speaking of a person, a place, and an idea.
The person, himself. But also anyone who followed him. Anyone who trusted in faith. Jesus is KING in this KINGDOM. A good king. A perfect king. A king who leads his citizens by example. A humble king. A king in perfect relationship to himself and others.
The place, anywhere God rules. This kingdom can be found in the hearts of men. It was certainly present in the heart of Jesus. He obeyed God perfectly. That’s what I mean when I say he was in perfect relationship to himself. He submitted his human desires to God’s will. Doing this, he fully represented the Kingdom of God to a world run by selfish desires and corrupt systems.
The idea, anyone who believes in Jesus as the only way to God can and will experience this kingdom for themselves. Also, this kingdom was not like any other kingdom present on earth. It was counter-cultural to any and every other culture. Its citizens lived an unusual life. They experience the world differently from anyone else. The simple idea was this…
Living as a citizen within the Kingdom of God means happiness is possible, wholeness is imminent, and fullness is a way of life because Jesus is King.
So what about my allegiance?
Every follower of Jesus must ask themselves one question, ,”Who am I most loyal to in moments where loyalty is divided?”
To many, being “Christian” is synonymous with being American. I hate to burst any bubbles, but it’s not. Jesus wasn’t a middle-class, white American patriot who’s message was “follow me as I follow the constitution.”
He was lower-class, Jewish, and devoted to God. This matters. The simple term “Christian” has so many meanings in today’s American culture. That’s one reason why I shy away from the term. Depending on who I’m speaking with, it could get confusing.
Followers of Jesus may often have to choose between being more American, Christian, or Jesus. Not every decision in our American government is Jesus-centered. Not every Christian group actually follows Jesus. Not every politician who claims to follow Jesus does! We must identify who we are at the core of our selves.
If we do identify as a Jesus-follower, then we must discover how Jesus would live within this culture. What would Jesus announce and denounce? Who would Jesus care for? Who would he correct? How would he live in disagreement? How would he approach the oppressed and the oppressors?
Once we discover these things we may find ourselves loving like Jesus and not Christians. We may find ourselves seeking justice like Jesus and not Americans. We may even find ourselves uprooted from “tribes” to which we once belonged (political party, church denomination, etc.).
My goal is to lead myself, my family, and my church in a direction that emphatically follows Jesus by removing all other identifiers not associated with my leader and Lord. I simply want and want to be like, Jesus.
This post was meant to start a conversation about the Kingdom of God and our allegiance as followers of Jesus. Maybe you have some thoughts. Feel free to express them in the comments section and join the discussion!