I few years ago, I read This Beautiful Mess and it stoked an already smoldering fire to re-examine my understanding of the kingdom of God. In this book, Rick McKinley defines the kingdom of God as the “living, breathing presence and purpose and reign of God on our planet." His writings also make it clear that the "kingdom is already beautifully present in our flawed world and…Jesus invites us as His flawed people to respond.” For many years, I had thought that I was at least partly responsible to bring the kingdom of God to earth. Seeing the kingdom as already here was not something that I grasped. In fact, there seemed to be abundant evidence to the contrary. Since then, I've grown to believe that the way to make our world a better place is to believe in and be active participants in a different story, the story of the kingdom of God on earth. The difference may not be readily apparent, but this shift has profoundly altered my life.
McKinley writes about “two gospels” - the gospel of Jesus and the gospel about Jesus: "The gospel of Jesus is usually taken to mean His announcement of the kingdom and the life He embodied in His loving actions toward the world. The gospel about Jesus refers to His atoning work on the cross and His resurrection, through which we can receive the forgiveness of sin through our faith and repentance.”
As I reflect on my past, I would say that I had based much of my world view on the gospel about Jesus. I knew who Jesus was, I knew what Jesus did, I knew that because of Jesus - God loved me unconditionally, and I accepted Jesus into my heart. All of this, I still know and hold very dear. In no way would it be correct to say that I have left the gospel about Jesus behind.
Instead, I have come to more fully embrace the gospel of Jesus in combination with the gospel about Jesus. The simplest way that I can say this is that I understand Jesus to be the king of His kingdom and I worship Jesus as my king as I choose to live in His kingdom, the kingdom of God on this earth. Living in His kingdom, under His rule, has opened my eyes to the holistic nature of the place that I live. Things that I once saw as mundane, just resources, or just messes - I now see as beautiful aspects of God's kingdom to be valued, cherished, explored, and to be entered into.
I'm thankful for my Malaysia experiences and the experiences traveling with Compassion. These experiences helped me see the gospel about Jesus as the "gospel for the offended against" and the gospel of Jesus as the “gospel for the offender.” I realized that I had been focused largely on what I needed - the “gospel for the offender” (the forgiveness of sins). This is because I had little experience with being offended against. As I came to be with and know more people who were offended against, my heart was opened to Jesus' loving actions for the larger world, the world of the we - not just the me.
So for me;
- the gospel about Jesus is the key that opens the door to the kingdom of God on earth. His atoning work on the cross and His resurrection, through which we can receive the forgiveness of sin through our faith and repentance, enables me to see that Jesus is lord. Wholehearted acceptance of the gospel about Jesus lifts my oppression and allows me to enter in.
- the gospel of Jesus is the key to seeing and participating in the kingdom of God on earth. The life He embodied in His loving actions toward the world are the same loving actions I can take. But, His kingdom can be seen and I can participate only when I place Jesus on the throne of my life and follow Him as King of the kingdom He brought to earth, as well as, the King of my life.
We become active and accountable citizens in His kingdom. We see His kingdom, we joyously bow down to Him as King of this kingdom. We become full participates and work as servants of the King to maintain and restore His Kingdom on earth. We see how precious His kingdom is, how connected we are to it, and we align our lives to His kingdom. At first, this seems altruistic - maybe even against our own interests, then we realize that we are one with His kingdom and His kingship is good news for all.