Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Availability of the Kingdom

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard asserts that the Beatitudes are something far different than what I was taught as a young Christian, and even through a good deal of my adult life. I think he is correct in his interpretation. Rather than a set of characteristics of people in some future millennial kingdom or a set of characteristics necessary in order to be a good Christian, the Beatitudes are Jesus' way of turning the first century attitudes toward who was blessed upside down. The general attitude then was that those who were "religious", wealthy, and powerful were the ones who were blessed. The religious leaders taught this and the common folk believed it. There was a long list of folks who weren't blessed and who never would be.

In the twenty-first century, have things really changed that much? So many times the gospel is a message that the ones who are blessed are those who have said a certain prayer and now follow a set of rules that make them good Christians, those who are part of a particular church or denomination and give assent to a certain set of doctrines, or those who work for social justice. The Holy Spirit does many times lead a person to a point of decision. There are doctrines that are important to believe. Social justice is something every follower of Jesus should be concerned with. These are important, but someone can do any of these without being a part of the Kingdom of God.

A large segment of Christendom presents the image of a Christian as someone who has all of their material wants taken care of, who is happy all the time, and who never struggles with the things that the great unwashed (or unsaved) masses struggle with. We give the impression that we have it all together, and that we are somehow better than those around us. In doing so, we follow along with the culture around us. The picture in American culture of one who is happy (blessed) is an individual who drives a nice new car, has white teeth and fresh breath, wears fashionable clothes, is zit free, keeps the weight off, and enjoys sex whenever the mood strikes (or within 36 hours). I wonder what Jesus would say today?

Maybe he would say that the Kingdom of God is available to the losers, to the ones who weep over a lost loved one or a lost job, to the ones who don't have the skills necessary to even get a job. It is there for the person in pain with a terminal disease, the homeless, the drug addict who is estranged from his family. The Kingdom is available for those who are the bottom, the hopeless, even those who are the worst sinners. All that is necessary is for the person to recognize their condition and turn to the King, the one who can make them blessed.

Those of you who are already followers of Jesus and are part of this Kingdom, please remember that the message that we give is that Jesus is there for all who will follow him, whether they see everything the same we we do or not. If anyone who is not a follower of Jesus happens to come across this post, I want you to know that if you have been given the impression that only a certain class of people can be blessed by God, forget what you have seen or heard. The Kingdom is available to you, no matter what your condition. You don't have to "get yourself right with God." All you have to do is change your way of approaching your life and begin to follow Jesus the Christ, who is Lord over all. His way is the only way that leads to true happiness, the kind that is there regardless of circumstances.

May God make you truly blessed.


Anonymous said...

Amen. Jesus is for all of us. I need to purchase and read "The Divine Conspiracy."

I believe we have it so upside-down. I think those of us who struggle the most, sin the most, we realize just how much we need Jesus and His Finished work on the Cross for us, and His life IN us.

I love your last paragraph here. An encouragement to all those who think they have sinned too much, or have messed up their lives too much for Jesus to care about them...that is so NOT true. Christ died for us all. And when He was here, He hung out with the sinners precisely because He knew they would come to a place of humility, of realizing just how much they needed Jesus.

It's the same today. It was this exact way I came to Christ. I had "messed up" so much, I knew how much I needed Jesus.

My hope, like yours, Co-Heir, is that with all that is going on in the world, people would come to a place of realizing how much they need Jesus.

Excellent post.

~Amy :)

co_heir said...

Amy, thanks for you comments. The Divine Conspiracy is a great work. The Father is using it to turn my paradigms all upside down.

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