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The Kingdom of God

In the book, "Same Kind of Different as Me," a wealthy and beautiful Texan named Deborah Hall is drawn into a magnificent obsession of helping Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth.

Her husband recalls that the first time they visited the rundown facility in a bad part of town, Deborah stopped him in the parking lot. "Ron, before we go in, I want to tell you something…I picture this place differently than it is now…No vagrants, no trash in the gutters, just a beautiful place where these people can know God loves them…"

Deborah went on to tell Ron that she saw the place in a dream, "I saw this place changed. It was beautiful…with the flowers and everything. It was crystal clear, like I was standing right here and it was the future already."[1]

What Do You See?

"What do you see?" is one of life's greatest questions. It hangs in the atmosphere every time you look at your spouse, any family member or friend, your church, your community or any other entity in your orbits of life and activity.

Goethe famously said, "If you treat a man as he is, he will remain what he is. If you treat him as he should be, he will become what he should be." Obviously, before we can treat someone as they should be, we have to see them as they should be. We have to see past all the externals – skin, hair, clothing, language, body shape, sounds, odors and attitudes. All those features have been picked up on their journey. Like the dust and smells of the road, these weary travelers have picked up things which strike the five senses. But if we get distracted by them, we will not see who they really are.

This even applies to those whom we have known long and well. It is too easy to see your own children primarily by their choices of music, friends, body piercings, speech patterns, etc. And, too many men and women have exhausted views of their spouses.

It is too easy for us to see our community according to the existing socio-economic boundaries. We speak of places like "that public housing project," "south of the tracks," "those gated communities out by the lake" or "skid row" as though they are fixed assignments.

But in the story above, Deborah Hall didn't see with her eyes. She saw past economic determinism to see God's plans for the neighborhood. She was operating in "the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

That is a choice we all have when we gaze at anything or anyone on earth. We can see what exists now or we can see through the eyes of faith. We can see the inevitable results of human effort or we can see God's new world which is (and has long been) coming toward us (Revelation 21).

River of Illusions

Throughout all of human history and in every civilization, the centers of power have always had vested interests in controlling what people see. And, that means that they create and maintain strong illusions.

For example, the news industry (TV, radio, print, and Internet news outlets) foster illusions of chaos ("Is Your Identity Safe? Be sure to watch our special report at 10:00"). The imagery of breakdown drives viewers to rely on the news media for pathways to safety. All political parties exploit (or create) impressions of vanishing or endangered natural resources -- like clean water and air, healthy food, and safe communities -- in order to deliver votes. And, the "sexuality industry" has a vested interest in helping people to see threats to their freedom, the horrors of women being slaughtered in "back alleys," and even the normal slowing of male virility as reversible. That way of seeing is essential to the billions of dollars spent annually on abortion, ED drugs, new insemination procedures, etc.

In their recent book, Common Ground, Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas argue that very strong interests are also heavily invested in an illusion of polarization. They write, ". . . conflict sells, and if harmony broke out, newspaper sales would drop and ratings, especially on cable TV, would decline sharply. . . "The extremists on both sides need each other. If one side were to win, the other would go out of business." [2]

As Americans move into the final weeks of any presidential campaign, the illusion of polarization will rise to flood stage. We are all taught to see the other ideas, agendas, movements, leaders as the personification of evil. And, that keeps us from "seeing" the world according to God's "plans for the neighborhood."

In other words, when we ingest attitudes and perspectives from the power centers, it becomes very easy to believe that conflict and chaos are the natural and inevitable state of the universe.

Sprinklers and Thunderstorms

Several years ago, in the midst of a hot and dry summer, I worked very hard one afternoon to get our lawn watered. I jerked hoses and oscillating sprinklers around the yard, trying to get just the right coverage.

Just as I was sure I had finally achieved maximum efficiency, I would see water splashing across a twelve-inch band of driveway or sidewalk. So, I'd finesse the hose a little more to avoid wasting any water.

A few minutes later, I was upstairs in our home when I heard a great boom of thunder. Very quickly, the rain started. I ran to the window and gazed out over the yard and neighborhood. What I saw was a revelation . . . water poured from the sky onto roofs, streets, driveways, cars and sidewalks. In an extravagant waste, water was cascading into our cul-de-sac and down our broad and long asphalt driveway.

Apparently, God "sees" the world much different than I do and He is far more generous than I am.

In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus said:

". . .love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

These are some of the most radical words ever spoken. Jesus invited all of us to come up higher, away from the suffocating claustrophobia of polarization, chaos and conflict. He invites everyone into the fresh, wide-open breezes of His plans for earth.

Every day of our life, God sends dazzling demonstrations of his generous attitude. He causes sunlight to spill, splash and surge full and luxuriously across the entire earth. He orders rain to go out and water crops, increase water tables and clean the atmosphere for everybody! Incredibly, He does it without apparent regard for the values or belief systems of those needing sunshine or rain.

That is why we can step out into the sun or rain each morning and see it as an example of God's attitude toward our family, neighbors, community and the earth. That should release us to live in "the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen" for everything which we touch, taste, smell, hear and see every day.


Ed Chinn is an organizational consultant and freelance writer from Fort Worth, Texas (edchinn@mac.com). His work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, OpinionJournal.com, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.



[1] Ron Hall and Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me (Nashville; Thomas Nelson, 2006) p. 83

[2] Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, Common Ground (William Morrow; New York, NY; 2007) p. 69 & 81.

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