I'm doing a Bible study for my old youth group back home. Of course, everybody in it now was a kid when I was in it, so that's gonna be weird. My brother's a senior in high school now, so at least I know some of his friends.
Anywho, I'm planning to talk about the Kingdom of God. It's totally unfathomable to me that this was the main thrust of Jesus' teaching, yet it receives so little airtime in the church environment. Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom was, simply, revolutionary. I like to call it that, the Revolution of God. I think that's closer to what Jesus (and others who used the term before and contemporaneously with him) meant when they said "Kingdom of God". In the Hebrew Scriptures (which is what I'm trying to call the Old Testament, out of respect for my Jewish friends) Kingdom of God meant the reestablishment of Israel under God's rule within history, along with a lot of utopian images such as lions laying down with lambs, no oppression of the poor, no sickness or early death, and the like. When Jesus uses it, the Kingdom goes far beyond the political and earthly, but doesn't (I believe) preclude the political. What I mean is, a lot of evangelical Christians seem to think that just because the Kingdom Jesus talked about wasn't the theocratic nation-state other people seemed to think it should be, that it's entirely a spiritual/moral concept.
What Jesus teaches is a complete moral/social/political revolution. Selfishness is out, altruism is in. Vengeance is out, forgiveness is in. Love is the new hate. Those old ways of life (anger, lust, judgment) are simply not going to work in God's Revolution. I think H.G. Wells said it best, ironically enough (Wells was decidedly opposed to Christianity). In a history of the world that he wrote, he said the following about Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of God:
It was not merely a moral and a social revolution that Jesus proclaimed; it is clear from a score of indications that his teaching had a political bent of the plainest sort. It is true that he said his kingdom was not of this world, that it was in the hearts of men and not upon a throne; but it is equally clear that wherever and in what measure his kingdom was set up in the hearts of men, the outer world would be in that measure revolutionized and made new.
All that is to say that the Kingdom of God is not theocracy. It is not Christians seizing control of governments. But as more and more of the world comes under God's Revolution, changes in our political/economic structures are inevitable. I think communism in many ways tried to do what Christianity should have done, and one of these days, we American Christians are going to have to drop our love affair with capitalism. It may be what we have to accept right now, but an economy based on greed (read Adam Smith) is not going to work in the Kingdom of God. It should disturb us that the early church appeared to operate in a way that would appeal much more to Karl Marx than to Donald Trump.
So if nothing else I hope I can get people to get off thinking only about life after death, the selfish gospel that Dallas Willard calls "the gospel of sin management." Ask ten Christians why Jesus came to earth and 9 of them will probably say something like, "To die for our sins so we can go to heaven when we die." Bullcrap! I'm not saying that isn't true, it's just so small. He wanted us to have a better way of life. He wanted to change us. He wanted to set people free, not just from the guilt of sin, or from death, but from the very fear of death. From the whole way that life is generally lived. The "quiet desperation" that so many of us experience all the time.
I'm blogging this mostly to get my thoughts out. I have to finish this Bible study and I find it easier to think here for some reason.
I also like "Revolution of God" because a key part of the Kingdom message is repentance. What an ugly, heavy word. Repent. We hate it, and try to avoid it. Or we love it excessively, and turn the God of Love into a small god who barely stands you, with his arms crossed and an angry look on his face. Repent in the original language means literally to turn around, to change direction. And hey, look! That's what revolution means too.
Jesus comes at just the right time and says, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" Time to change. Time to revolt against the old ways of selfishness. Get ready to change, for God's Revolution is here! It's already among us.
May it come swiftly.