EFC Senior Ambassador Bruce Clemenger reflects on how Christians can bear witness to the coming kingdom of God in troubled and uncertain times.
Central to the Christian faith is anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God. While the inauguration was announced by Christ, it will not have fully come until Jesus returns – when every knee will bow and all things will be fully reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:15–20; Philippians 2:10).
In this in-between time the Kingdom is (as Jesus portrayed it in His parables) a great treasure to be sought. As followers of Jesus our belonging and purpose in this life are nourished by this reality. In this hope we can experience divine strength to endure hardships and suffering as we battle challenges – even without any guarantee of the outcome. In God’s mercy and grace we may also be restored, healed and delivered from heartaches, sorrows, diseases and even death.
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to confirm whether Jesus was the expected messiah, Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor" (Matthew 11:4–5).
This was in fulfilment of the text of Isaiah Jesus read at the beginning of His ministry, proclaiming Good News to the poor, freedom for prisoners and setting the captives free (Luke 4:18).
When we reach out to our communities with love and compassion, we foreshadow the coming Kingdom.
So where there are faithful communities anticipating the coming Kingdom, "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10), there is resilience, restoration, reconciling acts and miracles. In these the Kingdom of God has broken through. In the words of Luke, when there is healing, "The Kingdom of God has come near" (Luke 10:11).
The prophets often described what the rule of a righteous King would be like. Hear the prophecy of Isaiah: "The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest" (Isaiah 32:16–18).
Contrast this image to the polarization, anxiety, busyness, turbulence, individualism and economic uncertainty of our technological society – our hurried ways of living so quick to ignore and even dispose of any of us who are weak, vulnerable, suffering and facing challenges.
But to those who cry out for justice and security, there is a promise. Isaiah says, "With righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth…. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them" (Isaiah 11:4–6).
In the promise of no more fear or threats to life, we are secure in a childlike trust in God our Father. Justice and care encompass those who are vulnerable. "Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy’ " (Isaiah 35:3–6a).
In Acts the Early Church is described as a fellowship of believers devoted to study, prayer and sharing meals. "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need" (Acts 2:44–45). In this they bore witness to the coming Kingdom when all will have enough.
I recently attended an event at Christian Horizons where this charity announced their new name – Karis Disability Services (karis means grace). They foster communities of care in which everyone is an integral and contributing member.
Living in the peace and security of the Kingdom fosters the notion of sufficiency – of having enough, intertwined with a sense of deep belonging where we all exercise our gifts and abilities for the benefit of each other. Kingdom belonging prevails without the gaze of deficiency or condemnation, no matter the seasons or longevity of vulnerability we may have been born with or that have come upon us.
When our churches and ministries reach out to our communities with love and compassion, we foreshadow the coming Kingdom.
This is our witness to each other and our neighbours in troubled and uncertain times. They will know us by our love and our certain hope in the coming Kingdom.
Bruce J. Clemenger is senior ambassador and president emeritus of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Soup photo: Shutterstock.com
Author: Bruce J. Clemenger