A few posts back I commented on what the gospel is.  Is it the Gospel of Eternal Life after death that seems to be laid out by Paul in Romans? Or is it the Gospel of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in the here and now? I am strongly moving [more accurate to say – have moved] towards the second definition, but am, and have been for quite some time, wrestling with the idea of ‘Kingdom Work’.

“it distracts us from the Kingdom work we’re called to do.” read more

What is this Kingdom work we are called to do?

Here is a video that is worth the watch as it relates to the Gospel of the Kingdom vs the gospel of life after death: Brian McLaren: The Gospel Question

First, let me start by saying that I think that the gospel is not “you’re a sinner, damned to hell unless you ‘say the sinners prayer’, let Jesus in your heart and follow him” (whatever ‘follow him’ means). I do not think Jesus will return again riding on a white horse ready to smite all who oppose him – after all, this would subvert the very message he left us with.

I believe that the gospel is that Jesus ushered in the new kingdom of peace that the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures looked forward to and that we are now able to participate in this new kingdom!

See, when the Caesar would enter into an area, he would be preceded by messengers (or apostles – same word) who would proclaim whatever ‘good news’ Caesar was bringing. The gospel of Jesus is ‘ Repent (become pensive again or have a change of mind and heart), the Kingdom of God is at hand (God’s new benevolent society is already among us).’ This message is very much in contrast to the message of the empire about the kingdom of Rome. (It could also be considered very different from the message of the christian empire – Christendom.)

I believe that the gospel is not about what we believe (this is what became of our faith in the 300’s with creedal religion – though there has always been disputes about beliefs and truth). This is not to say right belief is not important, just that is not important in order to be in/out or christian/non-christian. Belief, rather, affects who we become.

So what do I believe it mean to further the gospel?

I believe furthering the gospel is manifesting God’s kingdom here on earth. Bringing peace, justice and mercy. I believe it has to do with
a) relieving poverty (this is the real prosperity message),
b) bringing equality(to slaves, women, minorities, human sexuality, …),
c) bringing true security to humanity through passivity and respecting others and creation (resist the fear mongering, doubt/resist power, not vilifying the other, education of the other/enemy, environmental issues, and living in harmony with the rest of the world’s religions)

I believe that Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom IS a social gospel. Ah, but you say, “Jesus urged us to go into the highways and byways and compel people to come in to the banquet.”

Story Time

Jesus was attending a feast at a pharisee’s house and told the host he shouldn’t invite others with the expectation of being repaid; rather he should invite the poor and those who cannot repay. On hearing Jesus, someone proclaimed “Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!” Jesus then gives this parable:

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time for the banquet he sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ But one after another they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’ So the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the master of the household was furious and said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ Then the slave said, ‘Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room.’ So the master said to his slave, ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled. For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!”

So often this is understood as teaching us ‘who will go to heaven’. Is this so?

More important, I think, is the emphasis that those who were invited did not get to attend. Rather it was the poor and lowly that ended up feasting at the banquet. The very people Jesus just finished telling the host whom he should be inviting; which turns out to be the very comment that started the ball rolling for this parable to be told in the first place.

And who is invited to the Banquet table in the Kingdom of God? In this context, I cannot help but think that Jesus was referring to the very people he was feasting with, the Pharisees, the religious people of his day. So who should take warning from this parable? I find it amazing that we the religious people of today are so good at putting these warnings aside. We put ourselves in the shoes of the poor (in spirit) or the slave rather than the invited.

So I see this parable as a warning about blessed assurance. Just because we are members of God’s family, even leaders of this family as were the pharisees, does not mean that we are walking in God’s will. Not only this, but Jesus threw in social justice. Or more accurately, Jesus’ lesson on social justice is interrupted and he takes this opportunity to expand his lesson on justice to jolt the children of God into a reality where yet again he proclaims that those who are first will be last and those who are last will be first. I can’t help but think that so often the point that Jesus proclaimed to the privileged, people of God was contrary to the promise of being the head and not the tail. Jesus was saying that the tail will be the head and the head will be the tail.

The idea of going out into the highways and byways is not the point of this parable. Do I think there is a place to call people to follow Jesus? To become his disciples? To enter into the ‘Kingdom of God’? Absolutely! But I’d be the first to admit that though I am a believer in Jesus, I have faith as it were, I do little following. I understand all too well that the gate and road is narrow, that I spend way too much time on the wide road that leads to destruction. I don’t think that this narrow/wide road has anything to do with life after death, but life and destruction here and now.

Advancing the kingdom has precious little to do with praying, fasting, giving money to an institution or any other religious practice, including, dare I say, evangelism. The prophets of old continually proclaimed God’s discuss with ‘his people’ following all the rules and practices he himself laid out for them to do. Rather blessings results from doing social justice. That is what pleases God. Jesus taught us that praying for God to forgive us is ineffective; God forgives us as we forgive others. So too, though praying for relief in Haiti may change my heart towards action, to often it just satisfies a guilty conscience and allows me to feel off the hook to really help by getting my hands dirty or at the very least funding someone else to get their hands dirty.

We need to stop interpreting Jesus’ message, his gospel, with our interpretation of Paul’s gospel. Instead we need to start interpreting Paul through Jesus. What we tend to see in Paul’s gospel – a personal relationship being restored to God – is not core in Jesus’ gospel. Sure Jesus emphasizes relationship with Daddy, but this is not his message of the Kingdom of God. If anything it is a side effect, or maybe it’s a requirement. Either way, Jesus’ message is for us to turn our back (repent) on earthly Kingdoms, Rome and Religion, and to reach out our hands and grasp the Kingdom of God. By doing so we enter into the New Creation. We begin to live out the poetic prophesies we love to read about. The ones about lions and sheep lying down together. Jesus’ Kingdom of God gospel was never meant to be the message of life after death. It is a message we are to enter into now, while there is time to be a blessing, to make a difference.

In the Christian family itself, … Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.
The Mood of Advent: We All Need A Savior

Is our society is on the precipice of collapse? I heard that we spend in the 100’s of billions of dollars a year on Christmas. Tis the season to keep our economy afloat! If Christians would get on the Advent Conspiracy bandwagon en mass, it is quite likely that we would hear “Fallen, fallen is [the west] the great.” And “the merchants of the earth [would] weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their products any more – the lights and decorations, the gluttony of food and the extravagance of gifts.”
Revelation 18:2, 11

Don’t listen to the prophets, those decreeing justice for the poor and needy. Rather get out and spend so that the empire will remain. Long live Babylon!

Either that, or come out and separate yourself from that whore Babylon.

Are we going to serve the empire of the world [the western empire] the empire of religion [Christendom], or the empire of God? Its our call.

Why is it we insist on focusing on SIN (law) instead of Christ and His Kingdom? Are we really that much different than the Pharisees of old?
Comment by Spherical on Pragmatic Eclectic

I just had an interesting thought on Kingdom leadership,

1) Jesus taught NON-authoritarian [Luke 22:24-27] and NON-positional [Matthew 23:8-12] leadership in the Kingdom.
2) We know that we are to respect and submit to governing authorities of the world [Romans 13:1-8].
3) God has appointed in the church NON-authoritarian, NON-positional forms of guidance/ gifts: “commissioners/delegates, prophets, instructors, powers, free gifts of healings, of
assistance, of guidance, of kinds of tongues” [1 Corinthians 12:28 – some translation use governments here but the original Greek word means ‘to steer or pilot’]
4) Jesus is the head of the Body – He is the source of our being and our authority.

Shortly after Peter wrote: “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom” [1 Peter 3:9] to the WHOLE Body as the fulfillment of promises made in the Old Testament, St Clement of Rome wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church:

Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.
chap 40

The ink of Peters letter was hardly dry when this was written in 96 C.E. And we went from the priesthood of all believers to assigned high priests, priests, Levites and laity. All before the end of the first century.

The thought that struck me as I was pondering this, was that part of the cause of the fall was our taking authority and rule a way from God and putting it onto human agencies. Not only did it cause the fall, it became part of the curse. The egalitarian state between Adam and Eve before the fall became a hierarchical ruling relationship afterward.

From that time on, man ruled man. And governing authorities were set in place. These governing authorities were also set up between ourselves and God. Moses, priests, prophets, and then kings. These are not God’s best for us, God often instituting them on our behalf against His will. They are all an example of what don’t work and won’t work. Authority finds its origins in God, but as a result of the curse, some of that authority has been established in man’s institutions.

Jesus came, set up the Kingdom and taught that we are not to lead with authority; that God is going to take back ALL authority in the Kingdom. And then we turn around and re-setup our own human run authority in the kingdom of God. We still choose to live under the cures rather than let the full work of the cross break us free.

Sure all authority is establish by and in God, but that is not and never was his best for humanity. Jesus came to break us free from these chains, commissioned us to ministers of reconciliation to help Him usher in His kingdom to earth and we turn our backs to Him and request another mediator, another system of mediation.

Well what do you think?