Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some Reflections On Jesus' Thoughts About Living As a Citizen In God's Kingdom

Jesus’ teachings on themes within the Kingdom of God, including such ideas as leadership and victory, ran counter-cultural to the norms and expectations of His time as to what these concepts should be and look like in real experience. In fact, Christ’s teachings on subjects like these tend to go on full scale assault against the natural thinking of men throughout all ages. Whereas men tend to view leadership and slavery as opposites, Jesus linked the role of a leader with that of a servant. While this is only one specific subject, it represents well how Jesus’ teaching goes against man’s typical views. All of Jesus’ teachings on such topics might be appropriately summarized in His teachings on the Kingdom of God as well as what it means to live in this Kingdom. These themes are found throughout the Synoptic Gospels. Although each individual theme cannot be fully examined, by looking at a few points and summarizations, one can get a good idea of what Jesus’ teachings were as well as how they paint a picture of life vastly different than that of the typical man.

Even from birth, Christ’s life portrays a vastly different view as to what the life of a King and leader should look like. Rather than being ushered into the most pristine palace, the Servant King was born “in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7b,NIV) Christ’s entrance into the world set Him on a path that differed sharply from conventional views on what it meant to be a leader.

Being fully God, Christ perfectly represented and taught what it meant to live in God’s Kingdom. His life exemplified what such a life should look like. Christ spoke a personal mission statement which embodies how He will show what Kingdom living is all about—“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) This follows His plain command to His followers that “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:44b, NIV) Matthew 23:12 states well Jesus’ view on the principles of God’s Kingdom. In a nutshell, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12, NIV) While this statement in and of itself may not fully embody all that life in the Kingdom is, these words typify Jesus’ devastating blows to the self-exalting tendencies of the way men view life.

While the conclusion has already been examined, the entire first part of Matthew 23 gives a firsthand description of life in the Kingdom. Here, he contrasts the self-aggrandizing pursuit of the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day with how citizens of the Kingdom should see themselves. Whereas the Pharisees and scribes sought titles and positions of visible honor, followers of Christ are to wholeheartedly reject such nomenclature among themselves. In fact, followers of Christ are instructed to not give particular titles of honor to anyone on earth as such titles only belong to God.

Christ’s teaching on servanthood and love reach their climax in His Passion as well as on the Cross. Even while Christ was on the Cross and suffering under the intense wrath of God, those observing His crucifixion reveal their preoccupation with their image of Who Christ should be, thereby completely missing God’s perfect image in Christ as He was tortured before their very eyes. The account of this is well captured by the Lord’s apostle Matthew, as he records the account, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' " (Matt. 27:39-43, NIV) Even in this last hour, men were still proclaiming their falsified view of what life should be like in God’s Kingdom as well as how the King should act. The irony in this is that Christ was perfectly demonstrating and accomplishing both—that life in the Kingdom is primarily centered on selfless, serving love, and that the greatest of all must be the servant of all. Here Christ exemplified citizenship in the Kingdom by being the perfect Citizen, even the King. From birth, to death, to resurrection and ascension, Christ’s love is displayed perfectly in His word from where He invites His followers to share in this love and to continue spreading it abroad. Amen.


ryan said...

so we must be a servant first in order to be a citizen in the kingdom.

Zactschp2 said...

No, that's not quite what I said...or at least, it's certainly not what I meant. I am saying though that being a citizen in the kingdom involves taking on the role of a servant.

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