Friday, December 2, 2011

Kingdom Come

Try to bear with me and keep an open mind for a few minutes. I’m going to lay out what I happen to believe to be true today, but I am not stating this as absolute fact. The truth is, my paradigm of God and life and the world and pretty much everything else seems to be constantly moving. I think that’s how it should be. I always cringe when I hear people (and I’ve been one of those people) state ideas or philosophies as absolute truth. There are things that I would state as fact, but this idea is not one of them. I think my goal is to start a dialogue, internal or otherwise, for some people and to continue that dialogue with myself.

When I grew up, I spent a lot of time learning about the Bible. It was taught extensively in both my church and the school system that I was a part of through high school. We learned a lot about Jesus and read all of the stories about him. One of the memorable ones for me was when Jesus encounters this rich guy who asks him what to do in order receive the Life that Jesus was promising. Jesus, after affirming that the young man was trying to live a good life, tells him to go sell all of his stuff and give it away. The Bible says that the man went away grieving because he had a lot of stuff. Jesus turns to his friends and tells them how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:16-26).

There were a lot of other stories where Jesus talked about ‘the Kingdom’ and he always seemed to talk about crazy things happening in the Kingdom. People were healed, dead people came back to life, the humble and downtrodden were exalted. Now in these church and school circles that I grew up in, since we had never actually seen a blind person get healed and be able to see, we were taught that the Kingdom was a sort of abstract allusion to Heaven. That is, we will see the Kingdom when we die.

Now, maybe this is true. In fact, I think it’s probably part of the story, but there is more to it (maybe). The Bible seems to separate salvation (which is a matter of faith in the heart, with no behavioral criteria) with the Kingdom. Even Jesus says that one of the reasons that he came was to give us abundant life, or life with great fullness. I don’t think He meant in heaven. I think He meant that there is an abundance and fullness available for us here on earth. I think we are able to walk in the Kingdom, albeit sporadically and inconsistently, right here in the middle of this broken planet. How else would I explain those moments when Jesus in me takes over and I am somehow living beyond myself and my own rascal-hood. There is a fullness, a peace and contentment in those times that exists. I think that is a piece of the Kingdom. It would stand to reason (at least in my fickle mind) that by living in direct opposition to the Kingdom (walking around angry, a heart or mind filled with deceit or malice, greed, drinking light beer...not positive that’s a sin, but pretty sure), we would get in our own way and probably not experience the fullness and abundance of life.

Back to the rich guy. He had too much and Jesus knew that he was too attached to his stuff and the comfort that his wealth afforded him. Jesus knew that in order for this guy to walk in the Kingdom on earth, he needed to be willing to give it all up and move back toward the life of humble simplicity that God intended (uh-oh).

Do you know why they don’t have the food systems and production capacity that we have in Africa or India? It’s because they can’t afford it. Our richness in this country has allowed us to make astonishing industrial and technological advances with our food. It began with good intentions (to make sure that food remained affordable) but as it often does, a well-intentioned idea became perverted (by power, greed and any number of other things) and suddenly, we’re left with what we see today; A system that outputs mass quantities of convenient, chemically produced food at the expense of nutrition, quality, and ecological responsibility. And then the system decides to ensure that this artificial factory food remains a cultural mainstay by paying for it (through government subsidies), thereby guaranteeing that it is always much cheaper to eat the pretend stuff then the real stuff (and again, let me be clear. I LOVE the fake stuff...can’t get enough of it). We are broken.

I believe that the American food system is in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God. I also believe that by continuing to participate in that system, we are stumbling blocks to ourselves experiencing the Kingdom on earth. I don’t how to escape such a pervasive cultural norm. I don’t even know how to shop for groceries anymore. However this experiment continues to shake out, I know what I’m chasing, and that can’t be bad.

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