It was a great weekend of playing basketball. Our dorm floor had rented a basketball court in a nearby gym where we could lower the rims to 8 1/2 feet. It was a dunk fest followed by some good 5 on 5 basketball dunking on each other, throwing alley-oops. It was a blast. We were back in our dorm rooms Sunday night reminiscing about our weekend and the fun we had when our cross country coach showed up in our dorms unannounced. It was cross-country season and I was co-captain of the cross country team. We were having a great season so far so it was odd that our coach just showed up. When he walked into the room we knew something was wrong, in fact, he looked a little angry. He asked us to sit down. He then proceeded to rip into us for the fact that we had risked injury and put our selfish ambition of basketball in front of the team. He reminded us that we were cross-country runners first not basketball players and that our focus was to first be on running. To say he got our attention was an understatement.
In Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus was teaching His disciples what it looks like to live in the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus is encouraging them not to worry or to chase after the things this world and then he drops this bombshell, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
There are many things in our lives that compete for the priority of God’s Kingdom; work, relationships, money, worry, security, and politics. Yet, Jesus calls us to trust Him by seeking the Kingdom of God first.
But in our politically charged country, are we seeking the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of America (left, right, Republican, Democrat, etc.)? Are we fighting harder for our side of the political spectrum than we are for the Kingdom of God Jesus brought to us to live here and now? We can easily start fighting for a temporary kingdom (America) and not for the everlasting Kingdom of God which we are citizens (I Peter 1:4).
The Kingdom of God stands in contrast, many times opposes every governmental system in our world today.
- The values of the Kingdom of God is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith, generosity, belonging, kindness, dignity, sabbath, grace, mercy, justice, loving your enemy.
- The kingdom of the world is selfishness, greed, lust, lust for power, exclusive, people are seen as commodities, revenge, lies, violence, fear, and injustice.
As followers of Jesus, we are considered citizens of this Kingdom, first.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow CITIZENS with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by spirit.” – Ephesians 2:19-22
Wow! Read those verses again and consider what Paul is saying here!
We are foreigners and strangers here on earth. All followers of Jesus in this world (immigrants, refugees, poor, rich, every ethnicity, documented, undocumented, etc.) are citizens of the Kingdom. Even more so, we are all members of the same household, His household, His Kingdom, we are family members by blood, the blood of Jesus.
The Tension of living in the here and now.
Here lies the tension we are called to live in. Yes, there are national and international rules and laws that we should follow, but we should prayerfully consider if these rules and laws are in contrast (opposed) to the Kingdom of God (see a shortlist above). Are these rules and laws just, and in agreement with the Kingdom of God? Are the rules and laws being carried out in a humane and just way? Do our laws and the execution of our laws treat people with dignity and how we would want our family members to be treated? Are these rules and laws meant for cruelty or justice?
The answers to these questions are not always easy, but we should always side with the values of the Kingdom of God.
It is so easy to lose focus and get caught up in the sound bites of whatever news source we listen to on a daily basis and to defend our side whether it is Republican or Democrat, conservative, or liberal. Too often when we staunchly defend our political view, we end up hurting the Kingdom of God and our witness, because we are divided in our focus.
- Is our focus first on the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of America (or insert country?) Remember the two are not the same, not even close.
- Is our focus on loving everyone like Jesus or drawing lines and choosing political sides that excludes others?
I have written about my friend Pastor Albert before, but to me, he is one of the greatest examples of what it means to pursue the Kingdom of God. Pastor Albert has been housing hundreds of immigrants, refugees, and deportees in Tijuana. He recently told me that he was convicted by this because God was bringing the nations to Tijuana. He has housed Hondurans, El Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Somalians, Russians, Haitians, etc. He not only houses them, but he also feeds them, provides clothes, clean water, showers, soap, shampoo, and other needed essentials. Plus he advocates for them with the Mexican and U.S. government to be sure they are treated fairly and justly. He also sees this as an opportunity to further the Kingdom of God by sharing Jesus with them. He is seeking first the Kingdom of God! He is acting justly.
Pastor Albert is living in the freedom that Christ has offered us. Galatians 5:1 Paul again writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus has freed us from the need and desire of political parties. He has offered freedom from the slavery politics of this world and has saved us into living in the Kingdom of God. He has freed us from the burden of politics in this world and a need for a party to protect our ideals. God is our defender, our truth, and our refuge.
For me, it really comes down to trust. Do I trust that living into the Kingdom of God first, that Jesus will take care of all my needs? Or do I need to pursue other kingdoms to meet my needs and give me peace?
Let us choose to be solely focused on the everlasting Kingdom of God.