When I was a younger Christian I used to be puzzled by statements that Jesus made like in Matthew 13:13-15. Why would Jesus speak cryptically so that people would be puzzled by what He said? I wondered, if the gospel is that good, why doesn’t He just come out and say it clearly? Why speak in riddles, seemingly convoluted statements that only confused people? As the robustness of the gospel has become clearer in my thinking, the gospel brings with it a value system that is upside down from what most people expected. And this confuses many…
The Jews believed that when Messiah came, He would come in power, overthrowing oppressive Rome and re-established the shalom of the Kingdom in the nation of Israel. Yet, what was so puzzling is when Jesus told people that the Kingdom is here, there was confusion! Where is this Kingdom? You say that the Kingdom of God is here yet where is this triumphal Kingdom we’ve anticipated?
But probably what was even more confusing is not just the seeming delay of what people expected the Messianic Kingdom would be like. It was also the “values” of the Kingdom that seemed exactly the opposite of what people wanted, even expected. For instance, how does the Kingdom of God come? In the quiet of a manger. As Pastor Mike spoke about this past Sunday, how does power come? When one is weak and humbly calls out to God for rescue. How does one get “in” to the Kingdom? Not by bloodline or power or riches, but by awakening to the fact that they have been “out” with God. What is the way up to greatness? By becoming low and seeing oneself through the eyes of humility. How does one find themselves? By losing themselves. Who is central in the Kingdom? The poor, the weak, the marginalized, the disenfranchised and not the powerful and rich. How is one made rich? When they recognize their own poverty with God and they find sheer beauty in Him. The announcement of good news is that the Kingdom of God is not out of reach but it is the inverse of what we expect it to be.
Here’s one application for young adults . Growing up in the church is a good thing. It provides “railing” that keeps one on the right path from early in life. I’m grateful that my boys have been given a background where they won’t have to figure life out the hard way. They have been given God’s Word early in life and it’s been to their benefit. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this aspect of the good news is often forgotten, especially in Orange County, there is no need to live in an upside down way that the Kingdom points to. The railing that was so beneficial seems to keep people in a state of comfort as they get older. Why risk when comfort is available with a steady job and most everything is readily available? Humility is something to assent to but really it’s about making a name for myself (look at how much people talk about themselves!!). This creates tension and the problem with tension is that our modern form of Christianity does not like tension. At least here in Orange County, in the midst of plenty, the removal of tension has this tendency to lead toward a static faith.
So the tension that the upside down Kingdom brings is holy. It’s a really good thing. It keeps us risking (living by faith) in the midst of the Kingdom. It keeps us humble. It reminds us that no accumulating of any thing actually benefits us. It reminds us that we think the good life is comfort when in fact the Kingdom brings a vision of the good life that is much more consistent being transformed inwardly into a person that you were created to be. If our mandate is to make disciples, this Kingdom tension is inherent and any disciple must grapple with it as part of following Jesus.