So much more than ‘me and Jesus’
Jesus often declared ‘the Kingdom of God is close, near or here’ – it has arrived! With his incarnation, a new era of the advance of God’s Kingdom had begun and it brought with it the active determination of God to restore the world to health and wholeness. This divine Kingdom brings the character of God and his purposes to every situation it touches. No location, community, project or person is outside the reach of the Kingdom of God!
One aspect of the Kingdom of God that we are in danger of underplaying (or missing altogether) is kingdom justice. As it advances, the kingdom invariably brings a new sense of God’s justice.
Generally, most of us consider justice to be an issue of fairness – surely what’s fair must be most just, right? But for the Lord, justice seems more connected with what’s right rather than what’s fair. To be honest, at a personal level, I’m sure none of us would feel comfortable in demanding fairness from God as we are all too aware that we have missed the mark and a ‘fair’ response would leave us needing to fund that moral gap!
In God we discover a Father who refuses to ‘turn a blind eye’ to our failures in living out what he has declared to be right and true (he will not be morally compromised), yet he makes a way possible for divine justice to be achieved through the sacrifice of His Own Son. The ridiculous unfairness of that!
For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God! (2 Cor. 5:21).
Face up to the call
Jesus stood in the gap for us, took our failure, weakness and shame and exchanged it all for his righteousness. We now live in Him, relying on his strength and victory. Paul could say that God’s power is ‘made perfect in weakness’. We are now joined with Christ – his mission is now our mission. He continues to stand in the gap for weak, failing people offering to defend and transform them, so we work with him in this aspect of the Kingdom. Isaiah (42) prophesied that Jesus would seek justice and defend the weak.
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. (Isaiah 42)
Communal not individual
One of the cultural strongholds in most Western churches is individualism. It can infect every area of our thinking and behaviours. We have been taught to accept Jesus personally, to relate to him personally, to worship him personallyand so on. In many ways this is right and helpful but it is not the whole story! The Kingdom of God is plural; it must be a communal structure. Most of us would love to validate a theology of a personal monarchy with ourselves as monarch, all with God’s approval, but that’s not what the bible teaches. Jesus is the King of a divine Kingdom which is flooding the whole earth and all those who follow Christ are a part of this Kingdom’s dominion and advancement. We are in this together.
Global justice not only personal fulfilment
With the stronghold of individualism comes a tendency to build a belief system which places a sense of personal happiness and personal fulfillment as God’s highest priority for us. Surely, God’s priority is my happiness? Understanding the Kingdom leads us to a belief that our happiness and fulfillment are most fully achieved as we lose ourselves in serving God’s purposes rather than our own. The best adventure we can possibly have is to lose ourselves in the advance of God’s Kingdom and serve his purposes. We could put it like this, “whatever pleases God, pleases me”.
So how can we give ourselves to God’s priority of Kingdom Justice?
Start small but think BIG
Much injustice is visible and whenever we see it we should take action against it. This could be as simple as defending a kid being bullied, supporting a co-worker who is being gossiped about or visiting an elderly neighbour who has been left isolated and alone. Small actions train our consciences to detect injustice and feel indignant towards it, this is often the first step in bringing the kingdom of God into a situation to transform it.
Compassion not Judgement
Kingdom Justice is often offered to those who might appear underserving. We might feel very comfortable defending someone with whom we have empathy but far less comfortable defending someone who has made wrong decisions or acted improperly. God’s grace covers everyone and God’s justice, that sense of seeing God’s truth and righteousness established, is available to all with no exceptions. We are never called to only love those we love. The gospel is always good news to the poorest – the most ‘undeserving’. Remember, what pleases God, pleases us.
Some people need to take on bigger battles
Beyond the vast opportunities to bring Kingdom Justice to individual people is the mandate to also withstand institutional, governmental and political injustice. God hates hypocrisy and systemic evil in all its forms. Such injustice is less visible and yet often more powerful, and is tougher to push back BUT the Kingdom of God will overcome it. Who will lobby, pray, debate and present the Kingdom’s manifesto? Who will stand up and say ‘enough’!
Who will stand in the gap for those trapped in the sex industry or those in other forms of modern-day slavery? The asylum seeker, the refugee, the fatherless, the lone parent, the addict, the poor, the unemployed? Who will seek to transform the systems as well as love the people?
Create churches that advance the Kingdom
The kingdom of God is so much bigger than any single church or denomination. Churches are communities of the Kingdom, hopefully full of Holy Spirit empowered people who understand their mandate to advance the Kingdom wherever they live and work. The Kingdom of God is defined as his rule and dominion exercised in every location on the planet – Christians are agents of this kingdom, each carrying a God-given, Christ-won, Spirit-empowered authority to withstand injustice in all its forms. And to create powerful communities which establish a new order where the disempowered, overlooked, manipulated or abused members of society are defended and nurtured to a place of new identity in Christ, themselves becoming agents of this transforming Kingdom with the dignity of serving others as they have been served.