Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Subversive Kingdom

Everything in the news these days says that our world is broken. Don't give in to despair - read this instead: Subversive Kingdom: Our World Is Broken, But We Can Know the Healerby Ed Stetzer
Look around. Our world is broken. I'm not talking about the "world" in terms of nature (although creation, too, bears the marks of sin's blemish and decay). I'm talking about the "world" comprised of the people, structures, and systems that make up society--- the moral patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that result in things like unfair business practices, racism, extreme poverty, dishonest government, dirty politics, family breakdown, cheating, stealing, oppression of the weak, and so many other distressors and defilers.
In this world people who possess an evil thirst for power are often able to get it. People who harbor selfish desires can usually find a way to succeed at manipulating and taking advantage of others. People who feed on human weaknesses and depravations have little trouble exploiting those who can't (or won't) control their lusts.
Head gaskets blow. Jobs are deleted. Children get sick. People die.
You see it everywhere you look--the unjust normals of earthly life. Damp, dirty blankets trail out from under cardboard boxes beneath a city bridge. Retirement savings plummet in value just as their account holders need to tap into them. Trees go down in a thunderstorm, making the homeowner's premiums go up. Punk burglars break into a person's house, and all the police can do is file a meaningless report.
It stinks. It's bad. It's not right. It's broken. And in homes and hospitals every day of the week, at courthouses and gravesides everywhere in the world, people of all spiritual makes and models suffer from it--- from a world that toils along in hopeless disrepair.
What many of these people probably don't know, however, is that the only place where all of this turmoil will be made right--- all sickness, anger, discord, and broken relationships; all birth defects, hunger, addictions, and bankruptcy--- is in the eternal kingdom of God, to be evidenced one day in the unchallenged reign of Jesus Christ. Only in Him will any of us experience the ultimate destruction of impurity, disease, sadness, and loss; of hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and floods. All of it.
Because this kingdom (though not yet consummated) has already been inaugurated by the appearing of Christ on earth, we and the church have a meaningful role within the "already, but not yet," in-between time we call this present time. More than having a role, we sense inside us a God-given desire to alleviate as much pain as possible with the tools and opportunities he has placed at our disposal. We hate watching people suffer from the debilitating effects of evil in the world. We want to see the fallen and broken world, with its hurt and pain, driven back and overthrown. We may be pretty good at drowning out our heart's compassion with large doses of television and ice cream, but deep down we want to be part of making a difference in others' lives.
That's because we not only have what many have called a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts that he alone is able to fill; we followers of Christ also have a kingdom-shaped hole that makes us want to be part of what God is doing on this earth.
We wait for this lost, broken world to be completely fixed and reconciled to God. Yes, the kingdom is "already," but it is still "not yet." Complete victory is inaugurated but it is not yet consummated. And even though Christ's conquest is ultimately assured, right now the battle rages back and forth, delaying the end until the time set by God himself.
And I'll just say it. I'm about ready for this to end.
Not long ago my father e-mailed me about my sister, who died from a rare form of cancer while she was in college. His message arrived during the week of her birthday, when she would have been forty-five years old.
He said, "I miss her." I e-mailed back, "I miss her too, Dad." We are waiting for a day when these things do not happen anymore. Some time ago I tweeted about the tragic suicide of a member of my extended family, ending my post with the word, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." Someone asked me, "Why did you say that? How are those things connected?" They're connected because our citizenship is in Heaven. We wait in hope for the return of our Savior. Right now our broken world rebels against its rightful King. People get sick. People are hurt. People hurt each other. People die.
Yes, the kingdom of God has come near, and our families and churches are outposts for the kingdom of God. We experience the kingdom's power, and we work to subvert the world's system and see the advance of God's glorious kingdom, where people are transformed, marriages are restored, and relationships are reconciled. We will never, however, take over the world and fix all its problems. So we look to Jesus, and we wait in hope.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, "Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace" (12:28). As we are receiving this kingdom, it is an action in process, not completed. The word shaken in this verse comes from a word meaning unmoved, firm, and stable. It also is used in Acts 27:41, where it refers to a ship run aground with "the bow jammed fast . . . unmovable."
Often it seems circumstances in our world are always changing--most often for the worse. What God is doing in His kingdom, however, is creating a place of stability and firmness for a people who currently yet temporarily live in the midst of chaos. He calls us to join Him in destroying the devil's works and establishing more and more outposts of His righteous kingdom. And as our Lord delivers this kingdom to us, our lives fairly shout our testimony to the reality of the unmovable, unshakable God.
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32 KJV). He has. He will. And its subversive nature changes you, those around you, and ultimately the world.
The kingdom of God is among you. Stay subversive.