He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? –Micah 6:8
This is the theme for our school this quarter in Kona. We have learned a great deal about justice overseas, the staggering amounts of children trafficked in Thailand and Cambodia; the amount of children who die from malnutrition and the need for safe water in the third world. Often, we’ve sat in class listening to someone encourage us to go and make a difference in the world– to stand up for the weak and broken in another land. It is incredibly important and vital to the people in other countries to go and love and serve in the most dark and deprived nations in the world- we believe that…but some of our classes this week have focused on a new kind of message, and it has really rocked our world.
Our speakers this week are brothers from Georgia– Trent and Tre Sheppard. Both incredibly educated and honestly seeking God, they have really put some things together for us. One of our favorite authors, Shane Claiborne, speaks of a Gospel that moves into neighborhoods instead of away– and these guys have just built on our understanding of that Gospel and that Kingdom. Trent and Tre’s message has been clear: the church has gotten some things wrong. Yes, they went there. What’s amazing is that they didn’t offer up a bunch of complaints and cultish remarks. Instead, they shared stories of what they and their friends were doing, and what we could do to help alleviate the problems we’ve created.
An interesting thing we’ve learned this week is a concept of radical love in a broken world…a term we’ve heard before, but perhaps not shared in this way. It counteracts the example we, in the western church, have cultivated. The Sheppards suggest instead of saying “We’re Christians, come be like us and join our weird club!” We should be going out, serving the most lost and broken in our own towns, serving our communities and saying “God didn’t intend for you to suffer like this. Let’s all work towards restoration.” Through Jesus, we have restoration.
The other grabbing concept we’ve taken from these lectures is the idea of the Lord’s Kingdom. So many of us view a Kingdom with walls and armies– ready to attack any one who tries to storm our gates. We see a huge castle with a moat, royalty and protection.
This is, of course, the way many earthly kings have lived in the past (and maybe still now…)…so its not silly for us to imagine this as the Kingdom of God. Something that has dawned on us this week has been though– that God’s Kingdom is different. The Kingdom is NOW, with us and the Kingdom is coming. Jesus compares us, His followers who are a part of His Kingdom, to yeast. He compares us to mustard seeds. Strange He doesn’t compare us to something large, and eating everything that stands in its way– like a shark or something. He uses a tiny seed and a pinch of yeast. He uses salt. These, of course, imply that God’s Kingdom is different. It exists by a small amount of people forming together to work for something bigger than themselves and completely transforming their sphere of influence. The yeast essentially disappears when it hit’s the dough, but the dough is completely changed with it there. Shane Claiborne, the writer of Jesus For President, is from Tennessee. He explains this idea in our southern terms: The Kingdom of God is like kudzu.
We start small and take over with our love…for people and for God.
We’ve been talking about what this idea of Kingdom can do to the church, to the individuals who follow Jesus and want to know Him more. If we start to view the Kingdom in the way it is Biblically implied…what does that mean for us? We can never look the same. It affects it all- our time, our bank accounts and our passions. It means we can no longer live in our judgmental, Christian sub cultures and bubbles. It should mean that we are so transformed by the love of Christ, by the love that He has for the lost, the sick, the poor and oppressed, that we are moved to action. This action can look like us going to Thailand to rescue sex slaves, but it can also mean having a conversation with a (gasp!) homosexual. Kingdom living is, we are discovering, more about embracing culture-the arts, history and education- and less about us making our own safe place. It is about taking the Love of Christ into the homeless shelters, to our conversations with friends, to Walmart and to Africa. Kingdom living is believing we can make a difference, though we start small. God’s ability to love through us is amazing– and before we know it, we’ve grown into a Kudzu mountain.
What’s so nuts is that we have only begun to scratch the surface! We are continually praying for God to help our little pea brains understand who He is- how human and God He is. We want to understand Kingdom living so it can really be “on earth as it is in heaven.”