Sunday, October 14, 2007

more lovesigns: kingdom

* this is one of the lovesigns i couldn't get to in fusion today...

LOVESIGN: kingdom
1.7, 1.10, 2.2, 2.15, 4.16,

As with any of the New Testament epistles, the notion of warring kingdoms comes into prominence early on in the letter. In each case, it is the idea that the Kingdoms of this world are ultimately inferior to the Kingdom of God/Heaven, which then infers that King Jesus is Lord over Caesar of Rome [a highly unpopular affirmation in the mind of the Roman Empire, akin to saying that the Ayatollah is a useless despot despite being the Supreme Leader of Iran].

Paul contrasts these two kingdoms by outlining the effects of being a citizen in the Roman Empire [and what little good that did him in Philippi] with the hope and joy that Christians can have via their citizenship in Heaven.

Caesar's kingdom required absolute loyalty from its subjects and Paul knew quite well that the proclamation of the gospel and the true Kingdom would sit poorly with the Empire. Just as Caesar’s authority stretched throughout the whole Empire, the authority of Jesus Christ must extend throughout our whole lives – not because God is sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, but because we are made in his image, designed to reflect his glory with every facet of our personhood. Properly understood, Christian Spirituality is not a matter of following rules made by a heavenly policeman – it is a matter of bearing out the imago dei more fully.

Every time we focus ourselves on God, on his increase within our spirits, we experience a little more of the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. See, we can experience snippets of the kingdom here and now [cf. Romans 14.17], but the full measure of the kingdom cannot be attained until the End of the Age [cf. 2 Thessalonians 1.5]. Every moment we welcome the spirit of God into our reality, every time we submit our own will to the will of God, every time we check our base desires we are making a choice to live in another kingdom by virtue of serving our True King.

Whenever we experience the Presence of God, we recognize our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

This is because the kingdom is essentially dynamic; it is something that happens, not a static reality. It is perhaps best understood as God’s righteous rule operating within and over people, such that – whenever we walk in the will of God, whenever we feel his pleasure – we get foreshocks of the kingdom.

Paul holds this kingdom future out as an incentive for the Thessalonians to live worthily here and now. They’ve been saved, they’ve been brought into the kingdom of God, and they face a glorious future – so they ought to live with that reality in mind despite the present unpleasant circumstances of persecution and isolation within the Empire.

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