We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside…but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.
Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Time to Break Silence” (Sermon, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967, as quoted by Shane Claiborne in “The Irresistable Revolution”)
Have you ever taken time to study the Kingdom Jesus talked so much about? Have you ever thought about the practical implications of living in the reality of such a Kingdom? A Kingdom where the rich are the marginalized and rare. A Kingdom where ordinary is extraordinary. A Kingdom where the first are last and the last are first. A Kingdom that is ruled bottom-up rather than top-down. A Kingdom that exists within and among other Kingdoms of the world. A Kingdom that expands from person to person and community to community. A Kingdom whose primary weapon of conquering is not an oppressive miliary and brutal strength, but instead a gracious love and ultimate freedom.
I read of this Kingdom in the Gospels, yet I must confess that I am only beginning to penetrate the depths of its reality. I was always taught that this Kingdom was coming when Jesus came back to rescue all the “in” crowd out of this hell-hole we call Planet Earth. I was once a passionate student of Evangelical Escatology (the study of the end of things). I read the entire “Left Behind” series and longed for the day that deliverance from a deteriorating world would come. I can remember lamenting the depravity of everything and everyone around me. I can remember relishing the thoughts of Jesus trampling through the “winepress” of the world with the blood of evil people squirting between His toes. Disgusting, right?
That’s not in my thinking these days. While I still lament the crumbling of the world around us, I have come to realize that the Kingdom is alive. It is vibrant and powerful. Jesus said it is within us. This Kingdom belongs to Jesus, but we are it’s ambassadors. It is time we stop hoarding its riches to ourselves. It is time the Kingdom comes to life in the world! And it is. I am discovering many places where the Kingdom is busting out of the traditional boundaries erected by men. I have seen it and experienced it! I have seen it in drug addicts and prostitutes. I have seen it in living rooms and restaurants. I have seen it on baseball fields and playgrounds. I read about it on-line and in books. I have met people who share amazing stories from all around the world. The Kingdom is escaping the system.
I am convinced from Scripture that this Kingdom will not be fully realized until Jesus comes back to earth the second time. I know He will find the world significantly lacking. However, I have heard and seen time and again the problems in the world used as a excuse to retreat rather than take them head on. I know too many people caught in a system of retreat, dig a bunker, and defend rather than get out in the war and fight with the love and power of God. Darkness is not penetrated when our light is hiding in “sanctuaries”. Darkness is the absence of light and that, my friends, is the problem with the world.
The darkness is not the issue it is the absence of the light that I lament more than ever. I lament a church that is so obese with an inefficient system that it would spend millions of dollars a year to build buildings and erect steeples while people suffer in their shadows. But this can and is changing. There is an army of ordinary people that are answering God’s call to do something radical. Seminaries cannot teach this! Churches cannot contain it! The system cannot suppress it!
I must admit that much of the rhetoric I read is just that, words. Many folks out there are thinking they have found some great “new” thing. They think they are the only ones doing “right”. They have thrown out the baby with the bath water. They rail against everything that is traditional. That is not what I am doing or ever intended to do. I am thankful for the richness of history and wisdom imparted to me through men and women of tradition. I believe I still have much to learn from my historical background, but we must not live in nostalgia. We must long for the Kingdom to progress and expand. We must celebrate the victories, even when they don’t look and act like our particular tribe. We must learn to find what is right and deal with what is wrong in grace. We must remember that Jesus is the Judge of Truth and error, not us. This is not a license to condone whatever, but we must remember that Jesus died for us even WHILE we were sinners and His enemies. His love and grace superseded His wrath and justice, by extending us forgiveness and plenty of time to repent. Why would we do any less for others around us, especially those within the Kingdom?
Maybe we are in the process of repaving the “road”…