Where Are the Hopers of the Kingdom?
I’ve been writing a devotional book on the kingdom of God. It follows the format of most of my previous devotionals, which means every day’s entry is accompanied by a pithy quote from someone else. These quotes usually come from well-known people in Christian history—from any era and any branch of Christianity, whether I agree with their overall theology or not. As long as I agree with the quote itself, it’s eligible. In other words, I’m drawing from a really big pool.
Here’s the problem. In the very hefty Christian quote books I use, which also draw from a really big pool, some huge kingdom themes are largely or even completely absent. For example:
- Restoration. There are plenty of quotes about redemption in the quote books. The church has done a great job hitting that theme over the centuries. But the gospel isn’t just redemption; it’s restoration. (The topic of “sanctification” covers a small portion of this theme, but much more narrowly than it ought to and cloaked under a dreadfully arcane word like sanctification. Restoration is far more comprehensive than that.) Granted, there are a couple of quotes about the new heavens and new earth, but not many. And always with a “one day” rather than “in process” perspective.
- Freedom. Even though Jesus said his burden is light, and Paul wrote often about being free from guilt, sin, and the judgments of others—he was emphatic that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom—most Christian quotes about freedom deal with what it isn’t rather than what it is. Apparently Christian writers and speakers want to make sure we don’t get too radical with the freedom of the gospel.
- Blessing. I can find plenty of quotes about our obligations—what we owe God. No problem finding “blessings” to be said in church services, either. But I can’t find many quotes about the blessings God offers the people in his kingdom. The idea of God’s relentless delight in blessing his people seems to have been too frivolous for many to comment on.
- Inheritance. The inheritance of the King—and therefore of his people—is a recurring theme in many prophetic passages of scripture. Whatever the Son deserves to inherit—which is everything, including the nations of earth—is shared with those who believe in him. “Co-heirs” is the word one translation uses. But relatively few writers have gone into detail about this or said noteworthy things about our inheritance.
- Overcoming. From the prophets to the gospels to Romans to Revelation, God promises that his people will overcome. But our prominent theologians haven’t produced many quotable thoughts on this promise, even though many of us desperately need to be reassured of it.
Folks, this is a problem. Either Christian leaders have historically left some unfortunate holes in their teaching, or today’s amassers of pithy quotes don’t have many kingdom themes on their radar. Either way, that’s a disappointing statement on our reading of scripture. Some of the best parts of the gospel are out of focus.
I realize the body of Christian literature is massive, and some of these themes have in fact been written about by great thinkers—I’ve read many of their works myself. They certainly have written and talked about the kingdom itself, albeit in vague terms. But relative to other biblical themes, specific kingdom topics are often in the shadows of Christian thought. Human beings are designed to hold on to hope but usually forgetful about what it really is. And that needs to change.
Kingdom-minded people need to think a lot about the kingdom itself, not just as a one-day event (which it partly is) but also as a currently-in-progress movement (which it also is). We were created to invest our hearts in kingdom hopes, apply its truths wherever we can, and bless the world around us with the benefits of the King. We can bring the kingdom from the shadows to the limelight of Christian consciousness.
And I have a feeling that if we do that, the next generation will not have any trouble finding profound quotes about significant kingdom themes.
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