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Teachings and Values of the Kingdom The kingdom of God is a place where worldly values are turned upside down. Most likely the clearest (but not exclusive) place for a glimpse of kingdom values is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Being the king it can be assumed that whatever Jesus valued is a kingdom value. What ever Jesus taught is kingdom teaching. Again, time, space and attention span do not allow for a complete treatise on the teachings and values of the
kingdom but it can conservatively be said that the following represent kingdom values:
1. Children are valued and held in high esteem—Matt. 18:2, 19:4, Mark 10:14.
2. The poor are blessed and given a place of honor—Luke 6:20, James 2:5.
3. Those persecuted for righteousness are blessed—Matt. 10:9.
4. Servanthood is valued over power—Matt. 20:21ff.
5. The wealthy have a hard time entering in—most likely because of the humility and servanthood that is required to serve in the kingdom—Matt. 18:24,25.
6. We love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us—Luke 6:27,28.
7. It’s a life filled with faith and free from worry—Matt. 6:25-34.
8. It’s a life of giving—Matt. 6:1-4.
9. It’s a life of prayer—Matt. 5-14, 7:7-12.
10. It’s a life of fasting—Matt. 5:16-18.
11. It’s a life of love—Matt. 5:43-48.
12. It’s a life of forgiveness—Matt. 6:14, Matt. 18:23ff.
13. It’s a life where marriage is honored—Matt. 5:27-35.
14. It’s a life of reconciliation—Matt. 5:21-26.
15. It’s a life of good deeds—Matt. 5:16.
16. It’s a life of honesty—Matt. 5:33-37.
What is Kingdom Work?
Kingdom work involves two aspects. It is introducing people to the King, and it is helping to bring his perspective, values, and generative structures to the world. Many of the parables describe the work of the kingdom as sowing and reaping, commonly understood as the work of direct ministry of evangelism and discipleship. Part of kingdom work involves introducing people to the King and helping them grow in that mostimportant relationship as they learn to embrace kingdom values, but the kingdom is more than evangelism and discipleship.
In the broadest sense, any time one is involved in making this world more reflective of the place that God will ultimately make it in the coming kingdom (Rev. 11:14) one is involved in kingdom work. Because the kingdom is a place of beauty, cleaning a park or painting a mural that covers graffiti can, in the very broadest sense of the words, be considered “kingdom work.” Isaiah speaks of transformed people who “will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations” (Isa. 61:4). If people are involved in rebuilding, restoring, and renewing the city, their transformational efforts (again, in the most inclusive sense) can be considered kingdom work. When one is involved in correcting and making right any of the social ills, injustices, or wrongs of this world, because these wrongs are an affront to the character of God, one is involved in kingdom work. For those who are engaged in healing the sick, preventing illness, or building a hospital, this too is kingdom work. Those who care for children as Jesus did, this too is kingdom work. The peacemakers of the world and those who work towards forgiveness and reconciliation are involved in kingdom work. With this view of the kingdom a second implication is the possibility of involving many more people in “kingdom work” than would be involved in what one would normally refer to as “direct ministry” of evangelism and discipleship. Acts of kindness and mercy can be affirmed as “kingdom work.” The implications of living this way are fairly awesome. Christ-followers can inform those who are caring for the sick or teaching our children or cleaning our parks that they are involved in building the kingdom of God. They may protest that they don’t attend church, may be of another faith persuasion, or not have any faith at all, but God can still use them to further his kingdom purposes.
At this juncture it is important to affirm that kingdom work does not in any way, shape or form, merit entrance into the kingdom. Doing the work of the kingdom does not
make one a member in the kingdom. Jesus puts forth this disclaimer:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles” then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23).
Entering the Kingdom There are three passages where Jesus gives the requirements for entrance into the kingdom—each affirming the simple faith that is required. In his discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit… I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3-5). To the multitudes Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). One must remember that in the Scriptures, righteousness is something that is imparted to individuals and is never merited (Romans 3,4). Jesus told the disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.
18:3). Child-like faith, a new birth and imputed righteousness is what brings one into the kingdom. Any time believers are involved in introducing others to the King and helping to bring about the kingdom, they are involved in kingdom work.
The Kingdom Without a King and a King Without a Kingdom It is important to keep in mind that the kingdom always includes a king.
Historically the church (God’s workforce for expanding the kingdom) has swung to one side of the pendulum or the other—trying to bring the King to people without helping to bring the kingdom or they bring the kingdom to people while failing to tell them about the King. Both are less than Christian. The kingdom, by definition must have a king.
Conversely if one is telling people about the King (Jesus), then the appropriate follow-up question is, “What is he king over?” The answer is his kingdom. A kingdom always has a king and a king, by definition, always has a kingdom. To be kingdom Christians, one must be about both helping to build the kingdom and introducing people to the king. The kingdom is not realized in its fullness until the final transformation occurs—“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:14).
Kingdom Implications for the Church “Kingdom” is mentioned 121 times in the gospels. “church” is mentioned three times in the gospels, all in the book of Matthew. Have Christians settled for too little in thinking about what God has for them? It’s about the size of the kingdom, not just the size of the church. Unless churches have a kingdom perspective, they are likely to reduce externally focused ministry to mere programs, emphasis or tactics and funding will most likely be cut if this ministry does not result in increased attendance or expanded budget.
Kingdom ministry will not be core to who they are as a church. Kingdom Christians can truly rejoice any time the kingdom is expanding, wherever it is expanding, whether it results in one’s particular church growing or not. Sometimes kingdom ministry lead to church growth, but honestly sometimes it does not. But nevertheless God calls his people to be the church and to build the kingdom—whether it builds one’s own church or not.
Howard Snyder contrasts the difference between kingdom people and church people.
Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.12 Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church (Downers Grove, IL, Intervarsity Press, 1983), 11; quoted in Bosch, 378.
Attempting to cover with depth the wealth and richness of scriptural passages relating to Jesus teaching on the poor and the marginalized (cf. Matt. 6:2-3, Matt. 19:11, Mark 12:42-43, Luke 12:33, Luke 14:13-14, Luke 18:22, Luke 19:8, etc.) is too vast a scope for this modest project. My assessment of such a task would lead me to rely on the words of the Apostle John: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25). Author and columnist for the Catholic Herald, Ronald Rolheiser, however, provides a cogent summary of the New Testaments teaching regarding
those on the margins of our communities:
More than a few Christians might be surprised to learn that the call to be involved in creating justice for the poor is just as essential and nonnegotiable within the spiritual life as is Jesus’ commandment to pray and keep our private lives in order. Jesus’ teaching on this is very strong, consistent throughout all the Gospels, and leaves no room for equivocation. In the Christian scriptures, one out of every ten lines deals directly with the physically poor and the call from God for us to respond to them. In the gospel of Luke, that becomes every sixth line, and in the epistle of James, that commission is there, in one form or another, every fifth line.13 The ministry of Jesus cannot be ignored since it is Christology (what Jesus did and taught) that shapes the church’s missiology (what the church is to do) that informs ecclesiology (how the church organizes to best fulfill its mission). All mission begins and ends with Jesus.
Again, the length and scope of this project does not allow for addressing a fraction of the teaching, preaching and healing (Matt. 4:23, Matt. 9:35) ministry of Jesus. I will,
however, look at a central passage that seem to be the heart of his teaching and ministry— the story of the helpful Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), who defines what it means to be a “neighbor.” The Good Samaritan Jesus tells the story of the Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) in response to a question regarding the identity of, or who qualifies as, a “neighbor.” The story of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most universally known story of Jesus. A “Good Samaritan” is known around the world as one who helps others he or she has never met. The Samaritan in Jesus story provides not only a meta-example of love and engagement towards a neighbor, but the story also gives us illustrations of practical things ways to be a neighbor to those in need. First it is interesting to note that there was no kinship, friendship, or relationship between the Samaritan and the poor soul who was waylaid outside Jerusalem.
One would expect help from and towards those who through family, friendship, or affinity are the natural recipients of human love, often expressed in the Greek word phileo. But the Samaritan’s love was larger. It was without condition or qualification. God’s unconditional love (agape) goes to where it is most needed. On a practical level, the Samaritan demonstrates useful ways the church can engage in loving and helping others. These practical ways can serve as a template for church involvement.
First, the Samaritan didn’t avoid the person in need. “He saw him…took pity on him [and] went to him” (Luke 10:33-34). Most ministry opportunities happen at the intersection of the unexpected and the interruption. Ministry rarely occurs on one’s schedule. Churches that engage their communities develop an awareness of the needs around them. They “see” those who are hurting and take action.
Second, the Samaritan offers medical help by bandaging the stranger’s wounds.
Medical and dental costs have soared in recent years. Is there anything churches can do to offer medical or dental care for those in need? A few of years ago, Mariners Church in Irvine, California, was ministering to a teenage boy through their partnership with Orange County Social Services Foster Care. He was a good kid but painfully shy and withdrawn, mostly due to severe acne and the accompanying scarring. Mariners covered the cost of the laser surgery and treatment that made his skin like that of a newborn baby.
Third, the Samaritan provided transportation by putting the wounded man on his donkey. One of the ways the poor are isolated is through a lack of public transportation. If those without automobiles can’t get to work or to school, they can’t climb out of poverty.
Arlington Texas, for example, has virtually no public transportation. Unless one has access to a car, it is difficult to get around, so First Baptist Church of Arlington’s “Mission Arlington” began a public transportation ministry that transports more than two thousand people a day to work and to school. Maybe it’s a bit ambitious to start a bus company, but there are other ways of helping with transportation. Is there anything churches could do to take shut-ins grocery shopping or to doctor appointments?
Fourth, the Samaritan provided lodging and companionship. He actually took the injured man to an inn and stayed with him throughout the darkest hours of the night. “The poor are poor largely because they live in networks of relationships that do not work for their well-being.”14 Part of the redemptive process is developing friendships with those on the margins. Five years ago Calvary Bible Church in Boulder, Colorado, responded to a request from the local homeless shelter to provide overflow housing on the coldest nights Myers, 3.
of the year. The church responded by hosting eight to ten men every Monday night from October to April. Today, many homeless people worship side-by-side with homeowners.