Friday, December 17, 2010

On the Kingdom of God

A number of years ago, as I was preparing a sermon, I was led to express the challenge we face as the human race with a statement that opened with the line; "Our task is to put things in their proper place". Recently I have been impressed with the importance of understanding the mission of the church in terms of furthering the kingdom of God in the nations. This task involves structuring our various social relationships according to the principles of God's design and purpose for such relationships. We engage in such an endeavor as an expression of love and trust in the wisdom and goodness of God. In the process, we will encounter a wide variety of ideologies that suggest an alternative arrangement for the aforementioned relationships. Such ideologies are the inventions of the mind of man whereas the kingdom of God is based upon the mind of God revealed to the mind of man. The kingdom of God, therefore, is not to be seen as an ideology.

One of the ideological challenges we currently face comes in the form of postmodernism. The difficulty encountered with a perspective like postmodernism is the radical relativism it encourages. Such relativism denies that there is any real, measurable value to anything by assigning an unqualified equality to all views. This eliminates the possibility of an absolute standard and denies that God's truth is above man's ideologies (at the very least it denies that we can know it with a satisfying degree of certainty). It discredits the endeavor to identify, understand and communicate the principles of the kingdom of God as revealed to the mind of man. In its reaction against and refutation of modernity, postmodernism commits the proverbial error of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Reacting to modernity's failure to arrive at utopia through man's reasoning powers has led proponents of postmodernism to become cynical and skeptical when it comes to truth claims and reason. The error of modernity is found in its radical independence from God and over enthusiastic trust in man.

God, in wisdom and love, has designed our social relationships to function fruitfully upon immutable principles. The principles will have varying applications but the principles remain constant. We have the option of violating or honoring such principles. Christianity, though some have waged war against the title, is to focus on redeeming and reconciling all things unto Christ. This involves identifying, applying and communicating the aforementioned principles.

Such principles begin with the relationship one has with "self". This is inherently tied into the relationship one has with God. If we fail to put "self" in its proper place, problems will arise. The most fundamental statement we can make about "self" is that it is not more important or valuable than God. Correcting any error that might exist on this level is associated with the doctrine of repentance. Once repentance is a reality, the individual will need to address a variety of other issues according to the principles that apply to having a right relationship with oneself and with God.

Without attempting to suggest a specific order in which such relational issues unfold and without intending to expound upon pertinent details in this posting, we have the task of dealing with principles that apply to social relationships known as friendships. This would pertain to those with whom we identify and pursue levels of intimacy. As an example, we can refer to Proverbs 18:24 and 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Continuing to make the basic point of this posting, we must deal with principles that apply to family relationships, business relationship, recreational relationships, educational relationships, governmental relationships, etc. Either each area of social relationship will either be informed by principles that agree with God's design and purpose for the relationship in question or it will be informed by a humanistic ideology.

This is a central dimension to the mission of the church and its task to disciple nations, preach the good news about the kingdom of God, promoting and encouraging it to come on earth as it is in heaven.

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