thoughts on the Kingdom [May Synchroblog]

upsidedownHow do we begin to describe the Kingdom of God? I seem to get a different answer from every person I ask. Jesus Himself said some cryptic things like, the Kingdom is like a mustard seed, it’s like yeast, a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price. It is like the King who forgives much but expects those forgiven to do so as well. It is for those who don’t deserve to be invited to the banquet. It is where prostitutes and tax collectors may enter before those who clothe themselves in their particular form of righteousness. It’s where those who don’t work as hard as we do get the same measure of grace and it will be led by the least of us, perhaps even that panhandler I drove by this morning.

So the Kingdom seems to be a posture of the heart – perhaps a heart willing to stoop very low to enter. It’s humble and tiny like a mustard seed, it quietly breathes life like yeast in dough, it is where loving God and loving others is the norm (even without making sure the “others” first know how they are wrong – imagine that!), as Jesus said, do this and you are not far from the Kingdom.

I see it as the Really Real. Well, God is the Really Real and the Kingdom then flows from that. Recently my husband was doing some exegetical work for a sermon in the book of James. James 2:1 says, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” He was truly excited to find that the actual Greek does not include the phrase “the Lord”. It simply says, “Jesus Christ, of the Glory.” Now that’s cool, especially in a passage having to do with partiality. It seems to be contrasting our upside down view of glory in this life that must include all sorts of partiality in order for us to “shine”, to the Real Glory, which is Jesus. The word glory in the Hebrew sense means weight or substance and in this passage in the Greek glory (doxa) also includes the meaning of what is really true, that is, the Really Real.

The Really Real is not something we can grasp and own, as we are prone to do with pretty much everything that comes our way, whether relationships, orthodoxy, status or money. Peter Rollins says (quoted from Facebook just this morning) that “the heart of the Gospel is an escape from reality insomuch as reality itself is an escape from the Real.” So, the unreal glory, the partiality, our judgment of God and others, the comparisons of each other through which we draw our sense of being are a flight from the Really Real. To engage the Really Real, our reality must die. No wonder so many that I talk to view the Kingdom as a future event, with mere niceties and platitudes to acknowledge now. But the heart of the gospel means to save us from our grasping at a reality too small to sustain Real life.

Rollins also points out that that if we were to sell all that we have in order to obtain the Pearl of Great Price, we have nothing but a pearl, with no money left for rent, food, etc. In that sense, grasping the pearl will kill us. We’d have nothing unless we sell the pearl and then of course, we’d no longer have the pearl. Perhaps the true treasure is found in the pouring out – the posture of heart that is willing to let it all go. Perhaps it is in the pouring out of oneself that we live in the Really Real. 

Perhaps it’s just that I get so pensive after a trip to another third world country, having been immersed even just a little bit into the lives of those who exist with no safety nets, unshielded and exposed to whatever comes their way.  Their reality is too real, it’s harsh and unrelenting. The partiality of the human heart has helped to create their reality. Inasmuch that Jesus entered our small reality in all it’s perverted glory, I wonder if our entrance into the harsh reality of another, in the loving way of Jesus, is how the Really Real Kingdom can be birthed now.

Maybe it’s entering the life of a gay neighbor or friend, or with a Christian with whose opinions you may disagree. This feels huge after having been skewered alive this week by someone who considers me a false prophet of the end times and other things because I questioned him. I will blog more on that later because it’s truly the most horrific experience of another Christian that I have experienced – it left me shaking, as it did my colleagues. Asking questions seems to be the ultimate sin in conservatism – seriously! There is a rigid determination to maintain their reality. (We’ve got some work to do, friends.) But after that distraction, I realize that God frequently had (and no doubt still has) conversations with those who had a different viewpoint! True listening involves the willingness to be changed by what the other says – it requires humility and love. I am thinking it’s also being unafraid to have our reputations tainted by hanging out with the “wrong” people. Jesus was accused of being one of the sinners that He hung out with and He never corrected that. It’s as if His sense of truth and well-being does not rely on our pathetic sense of glory. 🙂 

Maybe it’s also as simple as attempting to understand the inner world of someone else. We truly do not know what someone else is carrying. On a larger scale, it’s certainly no less than supporting triple bottom line companies and being willing to live with less. My friends in the Dominican Republic and in Mozambique are tutoring me in that. It’s certainly must contain a willingness to affect change in the inequities of this present reality which will necessarily impact our own sense of glory. When we get turned upside down (which is really right side up) in the Really Real Kingdom, what we have stashed away in our pockets must fall out.

Anyway, I realize that the Kingdom is far beyond our ability to describe or comprehend. All we do know is it’s worth risking embracing poverty (on many levels) to live in the Really Real. It costs more than we know how to give. And Jesus said to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first and all these things (the things we need to live in this reality) shall be added to us. A mentor once told me that all we really need to live the Christian life is courage. I am beginning to understand that a bit better now.

Other Synchrobloggers:

Andrew Hendrikse (Christian) of Feotu on The Kingdom of God is…

Susan Barnes (Christian currently attending a Baptist church) of Abooklook on My kingdom goes

Matt Stone (Christian) of Glocal Christianity on The only Christian nation is the Kingdom of God

K.W. Leslie (Christian/Pentecostal/Assemblies of God) of The Evening of Kent on Politics and the Kingdom of God.

Timothy Victor (Christian) of Tim Victor’s Musings on The reign of Godde

Ronald van der Bergh (Dutch Reformed) of Ronalds Footnotes on Notes on “the Kingdom of God” in the New Testament

Bryan Riley (follower of Jesus) of Charis Shalom on Multiple Bloggers on the Kingdom of God

Liz Dyer (follower of Jesus Christ) of Grace Rules on The Kingdom of God is at Hand

Nic Paton (fundamentalist, charismatic, liberationist, apophatic, heterodox) of soundandsilence on The “Kingdom”: of God?

Beth Patterson (Non churched follower of Christ) of Virtual Tea House on What it’s like rather than what it is

Jeff Goins (Non-denominational Christian) of Pilgrimage of the Heart on The Kingdom of God: Now and Not Yet

Phil Wyman (Non-denominational Christian) of Square No More on Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 2): A Nostalgia for Paradise

Stephen Hayes (Orthodox Christian) of Khanya on Kingdom, power and glory

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Showing 10 comments
  • jeff
    Reply

    great thoughts!

  • timvictor
    Reply

    Some great thoughts. I do feel that it lacks a bit of the immediacy conveyed by Jesus and the early disciples but I like the phrase “really real”.

  • ellenharoutunian
    Reply

    Immediacy – yes! It is Kingdom NOW. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Lizzy Wagner
    Reply

    Ellen. Beautiful thoughts. Interesting that you went to the need for courage at the end – I feel like God has been saying – pray for trust, faith, and courage. Uh-oh!

  • Michelle
    Reply

    Several of my sisters in Christ among the CTFers and I don’t see eye to eye on many things. I treasure this! I seek to understand what they think, especially if it’s different from what I think. If we still disagree, that’s fine with me. But apparently that’s not “normal”. Pity.

  • Beth Patterson
    Reply

    Dear Ellen–
    This was an excellent post. There were some moments while savoring it this morning that I felt the kingdom so close to me that it was a breathing, living thing…thank you for that freshness, that willingness to risk.

    I will look forward to hearing more about the dialogue you had with someone calling you a false prophet. I’m sure we’ll learn much from your experience.

    Thank you–and thank you for your kind words on my entry for this synchroblog. Much appreciated!

  • gracerules
    Reply

    Ellen – I really liked this post and all the ways you challenged us to not just see but to enter the Kingdom of God right here, right now. I could actually feel your energy as I was reading.
    I loved that you said:
    “To engage the Really Real, our reality must die”
    that shook me up a little bit – to think about how my reality is blocking my way into the “really real”. I’ll be carrying that thought along with me for quite some time.
    PS I’ going to add your link to my post now.

  • LeeAnn
    Reply

    “So the Kingdom seems to be a posture of the heart – perhaps a heart willing to stoop very low to enter.” That sentence gives the image of submission and the beginning of letting “our reality die”.

  • Skip Newby
    Reply

    Well Ellen,
    I have affirmed your gift so many times, that I’m afraid you might perceive it as flattery. But it isn’t. I may have to stop reading you because you keep shaking me up. Imagine that, you’re able to shake up an old tramp like me. You definately are in league with Jesus. No wonder someone would accuse you of being a false prophet.

    A thought on your Pearl image. Not only would a person be without resources to sustain life if they sold all they had to buy the field for the gain of the Pearl (so we fear), but the Pearl is life, the Really Real Life, the Kingdom. I can remember being taught that it was a good thing to “sell all” for the Pearl, since the reciprocal returns would be great. More selfish motivation. Keep on calling us out of self, and into the Kingdom.
    Peace.

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