Kingdom of God Values Transform the World
Dr. J. N. Manokaran
Jesus began His preaching by calling people to the Kingdom of God. The manifesto of the kingdom was unveiled from the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4). For some the Kingdom of God is puzzle, others a mystery, others an enigma. In simple words, the Kingdom of God was Lord Jesus Christ’s vision for humanity. Young people may use the term 'dream' instead of 'vision'. The dream is for a humanity where there is love, truth, justice, righteousness, sharing, caring, peace and joy. Stanley Jones writes:"The kingdom of God is the master-conception, the master-plan, the master-purpose, the master-will that gathers everything up into itself and gives it redemption, coherence, purpose and goal." The Kingdom of God denotes the Reign of God, the spiritual nature of the Kingdom, the Kingdom present within the Church and outside the Church and the anticipation of consummation into eternity.
Lord Jesus used short fiction or stories to teach spiritual truths. These stories are generally referred as the parables. These parables provide the nature and impact of the Kingdom of God. Lord Jesus Christ said: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Mathew 24:14)
The impact of the preaching of the Kingdom of God would be felt in many ways. We can glean some wonderful principles and ideas from the parables of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Kingdom of God Proclaimed
The Word of God is compared to the seed sown by a sower. The seeds fall in four different places that provide four categories of people. The seed fell on the foot path, it was eaten by the birds. Satan takes away, if the listeners fail to allow the Word of God sink in their minds and hearts. Like the seed that sprouts on the stony field, a person who responds emotionally and does not withstand the heat of the sun. Without deep roots these plants perish. Shallow Christianity is not an option. The third types are people who do not have priorities right and have the plants choked under thorny bushes. Only the fourth kind of people bring out enormous results of thirty, sixty and hundred fold harvest. The result of the Kingdom of God comes to visible notice only when there is harvest. Until that time it is silent revolution and transformation that could be not observed and documented.
2. Kingdom of God Grows
Mustard seed is considered one of the tiniest of all seeds. Amazingly, this seed grows into a large tree. The Kingdom of God is small, insignificant and missed in a maze or soil, but grows into a large tree. The tree becomes the place of rest for birds of the air. That denotes the universal reach of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God embraces whole humanity that all tribes, people groups, languages, nations and culture would be represented.
Another comparison is that of yeast. The percentage of yeast varies from 1 in 1000 to 4 percent of the total ingredients. However, the penetrating power is unseen, and reach is universal. The impact of the Kingdom of God is unseen but evident. There could be several examples. Why people generally do not jump traffic signals in Western nations? The culture that was shaped by Bible taught the people that God watches us 24/7. Now with that consciousness disappearing in the West and no such concept in other parts of the world, CCTVs brings fear and compliance. Respecting and obeying law and authority is a Kingdom principle that becomes universal concepts.
3. Kingdom of God Prospers in a Pluralistic Context
The farmer sows wheat, however, when the crops grow there are tares also growing. The servants want to pull up the weeds/tares but the farmer disapproves the idea. Both the wheat and weed grows together until the day of harvest. The people of the Kingdom have to live among the people who are not followers or loyalists or sympathizers of the Kingdom instead enemies of the Kingdom. They have to live as people of counter-culture, unique, special and different. By their lifestyle, Christians witness and demonstrate the Kingdom of God in an alien world.
4. Kingdom of God is Invaluable
The Kingdom of God is like a Pearl of Great price. The price does not match with the wealth and richness of nations. In the parable of our Lord Jesus Christ, a wise business person sells off everything and buys the Pearl of Great price. The Kingdom of God demands the total allegiance of the disciples of Lord Jesus Christ. Loving the Lord with all mind, soul, body, strength and will is total commitment to the Kingdom. A person cannot earn or borrow or steal the Pearl of Great price. He can only receive it by becoming part of the Kingdom. It is no wonder, persecution, suffering, humiliation and harassment is part and parcel of Christians who live by Kingdom values. They joyfully suffer for they know the power of resurrection.
5. Kingdom of God is Sharing and Not Hoarding
The rich man failed to respond to the plight of poor Lazarus. The rich man did not do any illegal things. He was hard working farmer who had a bountiful harvest and stored his wealth. He enjoyed his earnings. However, he was not sensitive to the lack of food, health care or employment of poor Lazarus. In fact, he was securing his own future at the expense of Lazarus present. He did not care enough to share but was careful enough to hoard for himself. Christians demonstrate the Kingdom by sharing and caring for others. Is not caring and sharing an integral part of Christianity?
Let us take one example from the history of contemporary India. The modern health care system in India is legacy of Christian missionary endeavor. Though there were indigenous medicinal practices, they were considered to be secret for family members and never taught to others. So, the health care did not embrace the whole community. When nursing profession was introduced in India, it was considered as low caste job and only Christians came forward to care for the sick, needy and marginalized. Today, nursing profession has become an honourable profession (motivation could be money) and caring for sick has become a common trait in India. This Kingdom value of sharing and caring faithfully practiced by Christians have ingrained in the minds of others that India has good health care services in all urban areas in India. Two Christian nurses who died saving people from fire in AMRI hospital in Kolkata recently (December 2011) demonstrated Kingdom values, while others left the flock and ran for their life.
6. Kingdom of God Stewards
By being stewards of all resources entrusted to a person, s/he can transform the world. Lord Jesus Christ taught this in the Parable of Talents. Our life, wealth, position of influence, opportunities, talents, gifts and other resources are to be consecrated for the Kingdom of God. Christians’ faithful stewardship is a powerful witness for the Kingdom of God. In a country, where treasures are hidden in fields and safety (sacred) vaults or converted to non-performing assets like gold (India has the largest gold market in the world and the gold in all homes is almost double of the reserve gold held by US government.) Christians are called to be role models of true stewardship.
Let me tell a personal story. Our son Thambos completed 12 grade and joined a college. Now he wanted to ride on scooter and not on his cycle. For three months he did not touch his lovely cycle; the tyres shrunk, gathered dust and rust. I told him that this cycle cannot be sitting idle, either he has to use it or find a way for giving it away. I gave him 10 days' time and the cycle disappeared. Then he shared what happened: “I went to the youth leader and said I wanted to give a cycle to some needy boy. The leader said that there is one who is asking us to pray every Sunday for a cycle. We gave it to him who lost his father recently." The useless cycle of one person became a vital, significant and timely help for another. Interestingly, the young boy's prayer was answered, my son was joyful that God used him as answer to someone's prayer. This is stewardship that meets the needs of people. If all Christians around the world could share the excess in their homes, there will not be any poverty in this world. Very few Christians witness to the Kingdom by being true stewards. It means optimal, strategic, wise and timely use of all resources.
Generosity and charity are Christian Kingdom virtues that flows out of stewardship. Other major religions cannot be involved in charity according to their own philosophy or theology. For those religions believe that suffering, poverty, disability…etc are God's punishment of sins in previous birth. Any help to those who endure such punishment is intervening in god's justice system, so charity becomes illegitimate. Now many faith based organizations emerge to imitate Christian generosity. In that way the Kingdom of God principle of caring for the weak, generosity becomes a global phenomenon.
7. Kingdom of God Leaders are Servants
Christians witness to the world by the style of leadership they exercise. Leadership is not power to control people and resources; position of authority; possession of wealth but service to people. Lord Jesus Christ modeled the leadership by washing the feet of disciples. It is strange when we reflect what happened there. Not even one among the twelve offered to wash the feet of disciples instead of Lord Jesus Christ. Peter demanded a shampoo bath, that he actually increased the toil of Lord Jesus. A servant role has not competition what so ever. So, Christian missionaries go and serve people who are ignored, humiliated, boycotted, oppressed and exploited by other people. It is no wonder those people embrace Christianity as they see Christ likeness in their service. We had medical relief camps in tsunami affected areas in Tamil Nadu. The Christian medical students washed the wounds, applied bandage, offered counsel and prayed for them. The local Lion's club president who was not a Christian said: "We saw thirty Christs in action. Our own doctors refuse to touch these people, these youngsters knelt beside these patients, cleansed them."
8. Kingdom of God is Shalom
The Kingdom of God brings Peace on earth. The motivation for the Kingdom of God is love - agape love - divine love. In the world people take lives of other people (murder, kill, maim) including their own brothers and sisters, Lord Jesus taught a new principle. The greatest love the humanity has ever seen is that of Lord Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Thus he made peace between God and human beings. And Lord Jesus inspires, instructs and commands his disciples to do the same thing to brothers and sisters; thus bringing peace between one another. "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (I John 3:15 and 16) While majority of literature, religious and secular celebrates violence, revenge and aggression; our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the superiority of love.
The Kingdom of God is being witnessed by the world because Christians are ambassadors of the Kingdom active in this world. They are active by their attitude, worldview, role-models, relationships, behaviours, and lifestyle. May Christians grow in Christ likeness and reflect His glory into the world. The world did not become civilized and human rights sensitive by evolution as the principle of evolution is the survival of fittest. There jungle law prevails. The world is a better place because Christians have faithfully preached the Kingdom, demonstrated the Kingdom and lived by Kingdom principles. The Church has failed many times, but has a self-correcting apparatus through the Holy Bible and the Spirit of God. So, the Church remains the only hope of humanity.