The Kingdom Out of the Box

I was thinking about the Kingdom of God today and God’s plan to bring salvation to us. The verse John 3:16 actually played into my ponderings and I was shocked at something that I never noticed before about it.

When it says that God so loved the “world,” I was hit with the expansiveness of this verse. God loves the world. I can really get myself wrapped up in how wonderful I am as God’s elect, chosen one, beloved, and the list goes on. It’s easy to look at the world with so much sin, greed, violence, and oppression and to imagine that God will avenge and settle the score.

But how revolutionary it is to think of God’s love for the world. God’s love is still extended to the violent, to the oppressors, and to the unjust. Does he really have to do that? Why can’t he just keep his love for the church, a select few who receive his gracious blessing?

Even as I write these words, I feel their triteness. Many others must have written blogs like this before. Yet, I still feel the fresh life of God breathing into me, revealing a new facet of his loving character. The guy accross from my office who exploits the poor, the guys in the bar on the corner, the mother down the street who brings drugs into her family’s home, all of them are being pursued by God. His love is extended to them.

Connected with these thoughts has been a reading of Mark 1-3. I was struck that Jesus’ message began with, “The kingdom of God is near.” Right after that he begins to heal people and to redefine the sabbath, even declaring his lordship over the sabbath. The people marvel at his message and authority/power.

It seems to me that Jesus came to town, declared that God is coming, and then unleashed the power of God. If you notice, most of the people come to just watch, checking him out. But Jesus aggressively pursues certain people as his disciples, while exercising the power of God to liberate many.

I find this to be the challenge I face in ministry. As I begin to encounter ministry opportunities, I have the message (at least I think I have it right), but where is the “power” and “authority”? Maybe the better question is, “How can we be conduits for the power of God?” Do we truly believe that God can bring about real life change in ourselves and in others? Have we placed the kingdom of God in a box, not expecting God to really intervene in our lives in a way that is completely “other” and spiritual? Can God work in ways that defy explanation or theological formulations? I confess, I really struggle with all of those questions.

Can we let God and his kingdom out of the box?