I don’t know if this will ever actually become a “series” of posts – and if it does, I will definitely never finish writing it because learning to follow Jesus is a lifelong journey. One filled with change, repentance, confession, and celebration.
That said, I wanted to lay out a couple things that following Christ means to me. I’m well aware these are not necessarily “common” amongst Christians or at least what we see pass today as Christianity, but they are at the core of what following Jesus means to me. I’m hoping they may help shed some insight into why I have developed a few of the “opinions” I have about what God is like.
1. Kingdom of God
The most written about subject in the New Testament is the arrival of the Kingdom of God with Jesus as the King of this now-revealed reality. We, as Christians, are pledging our allegiance to a new ruler (Jesus) and a new type of Kingdom (one that is not “of this world”).
As a Canadian, I could perhaps translate this as “the government of God” with Jesus as the leader. (It’s not an exact metaphor, but it’s pretty close). The writers of the New Testament describe what God’s government looks like – and, surprise!, it looks nothing like an earthly government.
So, while I may have my own opinions about how an earthly government should be run, my first and foremost allegiance is to God’s government. I am to pray that his rule of self-sacrificial love that seems like foolishness in earthly terms might start to flood the earth like the waters cover the sea.
This will ALWAYS conflict with how an earthly government must govern. God’s government makes no sense in an earthly governmental context — and NEVER WILL. Even if we were to elect 100% godly leaders, the concerns they must deal with are merely dust or vapour (havel to use a word from Ecclesiastes), while God’s government is concerned with things that are eternal (and no earthly kingdom is eternal).
This is why our earthly immediate concerns will always conflict with our eternal concerns. Earthly kingdoms are concerned with material preservation and prosperity – and these hold very little interest to God’s eternal government. The GDP of God’s kingdom is based on love, self-giving, patience, joy, and other such fruit of the Spirit.
While I am all for praying for our nations and electing people who may (or may not) govern our nations in a “godly manner”, no kingdom of this world will ever come close to replicating God’s government.
My hope is not in a better earthly kingdom, it is in the eventual arrival of the fullness of God’s kingdom. The kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our God and not the other way around. God’s kingdom will one day replace earthly kingdoms; we will not eventually create God’s kingdom within our earthly nation.
Our prayer is that God’s government would come on earth as it is in heaven; not that our country would become a “Christian nation” and force its rule on everyone. The second a country even tries to do that, it ceases being anything like God’s government, which is based on self-sacrificial, giving love that draws people slowly (power under – as a servant) rather than being based on the “let-he-who-has-the-most-influence-set-the-rules” force (power over) we see in earthly governments.
So, while I naturally appreciate godly leaders, my allegiance is only ever to God’s government and no earthly government can replicate that or even come close.
For example, Canada’s economic prosperity may be very important to me (and it is), but it can never be my primary focus since I need to be willing to give up this prosperity if it interferes with an eternal goal. If I were to find the only way to maintain Canada’s economic position in the world is to mistreat workers from other parts of the world, I must be willing to sacrifice my temporary (earthly) comforts for the sake of my eternal life in God’s good government.
This is just one example, but it holds true for me in every aspect of life – even if I am not very good at actually putting it into practice at times (that would be sin at work).
It will look like foolishness to people looking through the lens of the “way our world works”, but that is because we are using a different lens and the lens I am using is admittedly out of focus with the way things are right now … I believe that is the way it should be!
I may sound unrealistic. I may sound utopian. I may sound ridiculous. I may sound risky and dangerous.
I’ll admit to all those things. And it is completely intentional because God came to reveal that this world will pass away, but his truth will not. I’m after his truth, not what gives me temporary comfort.
2. Selfishness is an Enemy
In the eyes of God, my comfort – or the comfort of my family; my kids – is not any more important than the comfort of my most hated enemy.
While we all naturally want to protect and care for “our tribe”, we are all one tribe to God. We are all his children and none of us are more important to him than any other.
He is the father who will leave the 99 alone to chase after the one who is missing. This leaves the 99 alone and scared, but that one individual is too important to ignore.
I am just as likely to want to fight to protect my children as anyone else would (I wouldn’t be a good father if I didn’t), but if I am willing to do this at the expense of someone else’s child, my selfishness is part of the problem that God has come to eradicate.
If this sounds foolish to you (like it does to me when I look at “reality”) it is because we are both still seeing the world through our earthly eyes and not through the eternal eyes of God’s kingdom.
Whenever I am willing to ignore the suffering of someone else because it would put me or my family in a position of potential hardship or need, I am not exhibiting self-sacrificial love, which – as we noted before – is the very currency of God’s government.
So, those are just a couple core thoughts about what it means to me to be a follower of Christ. They may make me sound foolish … I get it … but, to me, they are part of the starting point of what it means to be a Christian.
Grace and peace!