Monday, January 30, 2006

On Earth as it is in Heaven

This Sunday David Best spoke at our church. The main point of discussion really got me thinking about how we proclaim Christ’s kingdom through the making of things right on earth. He talked about the Lord's Prayer and the line "Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven".

It seems that American Evangelical Christians have focused so much on the kingdom coming that we have forgotten this part of the prayer. Our time on earth has become nothing more then "riding it out" to get to heaven. By doing this we are only recognizing half of the gospel, half of the truth that can set us free. We justify ourselves into believing that we cannot make a difference in this world, that we cannot possibly eliminate hunger, poverty, disease, wars, and injustice. This is simply not true. God promises that through Him we can do anything He will ever call us to do. How can we believe in a God that tells us to pray for something we think we could never do through Him?

To proclaim Christ's kingdom coming through the making of all things right on earth as it is in heaven is a necessity of the gospel, you cannot preach the whole gospel without a call to social justice. When you hear the gospel and do not feel an urgency make a difference in the world, you have to question whether it is really the gospel you are hearing at all.

We American Evangelicals have created an amazing way of justifying our sins. If there is a sin that can be named, we have a reason it is okay for us to commit it. Take the story of the rich young ruler. We tell ourselves, "I am not REALLY rich", "I could let go of it all if God told me, BUT He hasn't", "God doesn't really want ME to give away everything I have", "I can follow Him AND keep my possessions". These have become nothing more then excuses for ourselves to hold on to the things that separate us from really knowing the heart of Christ.

Derek Webb puts the parable of the rich young ruler to modern terms in this song "Rich Young Ruler" from his newest album "Mockingbird":

(vs. 1)
poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

(vs. 2)
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

We can say all day, "That is not me, God has not asked those things of me" but has He? Are we really reading the radical call of the gospel? Are we to busy telling ourselves that He hasn't that we can't hear Him when He is? I don't know. These are serious questions I struggle with while listening to my iPod in my car with music I downloaded on my computer in my loft.

Martin Luther King Jr's dream has been adopted by almost every American to be something to push for, but if you really look closely at Reverend King's speech, and life, you see a call to proclaim Christ's kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. We should settle for nothing short of that.

In celebration of the life and work of Reverend King this month, I strongly encourage each of us to find a way we can contribute to the proclamation of the Kingdom on earth and let go of something that is holding you back from doing so, whether it is money, security, time, comfort, whatever it is. My wife and I have been praying about what that looks like in ourlives. I will report back with what we end up doing. If you have decided to do the same or have any ideas of what people can do, please post about it in the comments section.


jennylou said...

It's interesting. I think sometimes people read your blog and think that you are being really tough on evangelicals, but knowing you I would say that really you are being really tough on yourself first of all. I respect how you push on past your own excuses in order to wrestle with the tough questions.

J.R. said...

Yeah, totaly.
I think sometimes when I am writing in here I forget that not everyone who reads my blog knows who I am, which I never intended to happen, but I am very greatful that so many people do read it. Those who don't know me should know that whenever I am stating a problem I see in the church, america, or the american church, I am most curtainly including myself in that group, I am point a finger at myself as much, or usualy more, then at anyone else. I think that Christians should be the ones telling their brothers and sisters where we are failing in love and desire to be what Christ called us to be. I am sorry if I don't always make that clear in my writing.

MattSlawson said...

AMEN! I def agree, Rob Bell (author of velvet elvis and pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church) has spoke alot on this, check it out if you get a chance. I also def agree with your comment, about christians calling out there brothers and sisters, thats what we are called to do.

-Im a friend of BHill and Chad's by the way.