Something struck me today. And no, it was not the sudden stop when I realized my car had a flat tire (true story).
It struck me, watching the dialog on Twitter and Facebook about things in this world that as soon as the subject of poverty, poor people, hunger, oppression, racism, etc., comes up, the conversation immediately shifts to some sort of discussion on political polarities and which way of doing politics is the right way of solving these problems. Right and left all talk about this. Heck, I’m talking about it RIGHT NOW!!! Even those who call themselves moderates (which I like to think that I am but who really knows for sure?) end up talking about politics and about how to moderate between right and left so that we can all just get along and get the right kind of government in place to solve all these problems.
Look, I’ve gotten caught up in this trap, too. Just look back over a number of my more recent blog posts. Heck, even THIS one involves politics.
What I’m trying to say is this: In the whole scheme of things, when it all comes down to it, when we really start getting to the meat of the problem…
One thing is for sure. There will always be governments, there will always be politics, there will always be countries, but those governments, politics, and countries are not eternal. The great British Empire… gone. The Romans… gone. The Greeks… gone. The Mongols… gone. Every great nation, empire, political structure in the history of this world either is no longer around or will, some day, itself no longer exist.
How about we change our story a bit. I mean, after all, if you read the gospels (which are, themselves, stories) there’s something interesting that really stands out. All the other narratives of Scripture from Genesis through Malachi all involve stories of nations and the way that they interact with each other. Some of the nations were just big families (Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and all those 12 brothers and their sister) and some were, really, nations (Israel, Egypt, Sodom, Judah, Persia, Babylon, etc). Those stories all dealt with nations of people and their role in making sure that everyone aimed towards the way God wanted them to live (or, how they DIDN’T do that which got them into trouble a lot).
And then comes Jesus. And the story he tells is not about a physical Kingdom or about some new conquest or an exodus out of someplace into someplace else or a return back home or any of these big national identity issues. The only Kingdom he talked about was the Kingdom of God which, as a great shock to everyone who was listening, he said was ALREADY HERE!
Think about it for just a second. Jesus was walking around in the midst of a seriously oppressed people. Either they were oppressed by Roman occupiers or they were oppressed by a corrupt monarchy or they were oppressed by a legalistic religious elite and Jesus pretty much said, “Yeah, okay… but the Kingdom of God is here.” If the Kingdom of God was there, why all the oppression still?
The answer, I believe, is a lot simpler than we would like to believe. The Kingdom of God is not dependent upon the lines drawn in the dirt by national governments nor the lines drawn in ideals of political parties. The Kingdom of God simply exists wherever there are a couple of people who say “We have allegiance to King Jesus”. That’s it. That’s the only requirement. And what happens in this Kingdom?
Poor get taken care of.
Widows are looked after.
Orphans are stood up for.
Prisoners find freedom.
Hungry are fed.
Thirsty find drink.
Lonely find belonging.
Burdened are relieved.
And how is this done? Because of the presence of the Kingdom. So, if there are Kingdom people around, you’d expect those things to be taken care of IN SPITE OF anything else going on. So, while political debates rage on and elections come and go, empires rise and fall, we are part of a Kingdom that is ALREADY HERE and will ALWAYS BE HERE. We don’t need to vote anyone in. We don’t need to pass any laws. We don’t need to figure out a platform of policies to deal with “the issues”. That’s all been done already. It’s all been figured out already. Why are we doing work that has already been done and doing it for systems that, in the eternal scheme of things, are nothing but dust in the wind? “Vanity” in the translated words of the one Biblical author.
Let’s tell a new story. Let’s tell a story about a bunch of people who see homeless people in their neighborhood and go out of their way to make room for them in their own homes. Let’s tell a story about people who help other people find jobs even if their skin has more pigment than theirs. Let’s tell a story about people who, when they find they made too much for dinner, invite their neighbors over. Let’s tell a story about people who take their vacation time and go dig a well on a Native American reservation. Let’s tell a story about people who go into prison and share forgiveness and hope to those who have been taught that such things don’t exist.
It’s time, I think, to close that old book and open up the one that starts with the Book of Life and we start reading from the new story of what happens when the Kingdom of God bursts into the world and starts turning things upside down and backwards.