At hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17, 10:7). For the poor in spirit (5:3) and persecuted (5:10). Fulfilling the Law (5:19). Joined by nations from the East and West (8:11). A victim of violence (11:12). A secret revealed only to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear it (3:17). Like a seed needing good soil (13:24), a tiny mustard seed that grows to be a giant tree (13:31-32), yeast which works its way through dough (13:33), a great treasure or a pearl (13:44-45) which is worth abandoning everything else for. It is for the child (18:3) and the humble (18:1, 4).
Something I’ve always been pretty passionate about, is being a decent representation of who the God of the Bible says that He is. It started off as trying to be a “good Christian”, but this started feeling hopeless, the more I saw how syncretism turned words like “church” and “Christian” dirty. I resonated with what Philip Yancy said in his book, “What’s so amazing about Grace?”: Grace is really the only “Christian word” that has remained uncorrupted. Too much evil has been done in the name of Christianity and I’ve noticed the pattern of it usually being tainted by the earthly power its associated with.
When being Christian also means being a patriot of somewhere, it has nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom is by nature, other worldly. It’s members are both heavenly and human, and the human part is made up of every tribe, tongue and nation. Being a patriot of somewhere presupposes a superiority over those from elsewhere. Such pride and exclusion have nothing to do with this Kingdom.
I’ve seen glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven throughout my life. I see it in diverse worship teams, as people sing together in multiple languages. I see it in the childless women who, taking Isaiah 54 as a mandate, become mothers to the lonely. I find it in edifying conversations, as it becomes clear that the Spirit of God dwells within the many tents we are. I have seen it every time a person truly forgives and finds that indescribable freedom of accounts settled.
I was working in a refugee camp in Greece during the American election results of 2016 and into 2017. The hopelessness in the air was thick and on more than one occasion, we were talking people out of suicide. The day after “The Ban” went into effect, emboldening more countries to close their doors to asylum seekers, this graffiti appeared on a wall in the camp:
“I am here because the outside world rejects me.”
The reply which leaped from my spirit was, “And I am here, because the Kingdom of Heaven does not!”
Maybe I, as an American, represented a closed door, but I, as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, was at hand. The Kingdom has also suffered violence and it is for the poor in spirit. That is why they can be called Blessed (5:3).
My world was turned upside down. I experienced persecution and evil at the hands of Christians and non-Christians alike. I experienced unconditional love and incomparable treasure in Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Suddenly all titles and religions looked exactly the same and I lost interest. I now only was interested in the God of a Kingdom that was eternal, international, fulfilling the Law of love for God and neighbor, and at hand.
I grabbed hold of that beautiful grace that I needed to navigate my own anger and find forgiveness on the other side. It continues to be a slow process, because I am a slow process. I hope I can extend grace to everyone, because although I’ve seen venomous words spewed out of every kind of mouth (Republican, Democrat, Evangelical, Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Arab, European, Latino, African, Asian and Communist), I have seen compassion in all as well. Flickers of light awaken in the eyes of friends as they remember there is another option: The Kingdom of Heaven way.
It may be familiar with heartache, but it is worth losing everything to find it.
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