Kingdom of God Choices II
Last month I (Phil) shared how, in spite of Israel’s expectations, Jesus shunned personal prosperity, power and publicity, and chose to establish the Kingdom of God (KG) His Way. Here, I offer thoughts on 3 final KG characteristics, that Rachel and I have not only been exploring with leaders, but believe God wants us to practice personally.
4. Jesus’ version of the KG chooses inclusion, irrespective of a persons financial / social status
Inclusion / integration is something God has been challenging Rachel and I about for some time now. You can’t not notice the lack of social cohesion, living as we do in South Africa, a country which in so many ways continues to favour a select few – something we aim to counter act through a school (see pages 2 – 3).
In contrast to most leaders of His day, Jesus called, chose, prayed for and ate with sinners (Mk 2:13-17; Lk 19:1-10), incl. adulterers (Jn 8:1-11), children (Mt 18:6; 19:13-15; Mk 9:42; 10:13-16; Lk 17:2), prostitutes (Lk 7:36-50), tax collectors (Lk 19:1-10), plus other genders / faiths, e.g. the woman in John 4.
5. Jesus’ version of the KG is ruthlessly focused
Contrast Jesus’ inclusive conversation in Jn 4, with His response to a Canaanite woman’s request to cure her daughter in Mt 15:26ff – “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Whilst the translation is small pet dog, rather than unclean wild dog, it still seems rather harsh, unless you appreciate that Jesus is describing His primary call to Israel (cf. v24). To divert His time and resources would be like a dad taking food from his child to throw it to a pet.
Focus, that comes from a confidence in one’s mission, is absolutely necessary, even if it means saying “no” to some for others’ sake – which Jesus does elsewhere…
6. Jesus pursues God’s purposes not popularity
As a result of Jesus curing a demon-possessed man and Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum in Mk 1:34-35, 34“The whole town gathered at the door.” Although Jesus heals many of them, He leaves the house early the next morning to pray alone, only to be pursued by His followers, who – without considering how God’s purposes might differ from theirs – exclaim in exasperation that, 35“Everyone is looking for you!”
Rather than go with the flow, rest on His laurels or settle for success, Jesus chooses to leave town – since He did not come only for Capernaum, He must allocate His resources justly and effectively.
Whenever Rachel and I have had to make ‘unpopular’ decisions (and sometimes following God requires us to), we have tried to do so in light of what we believe are God’s purposes.