Kingdom Ethics

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On a regular basis I am confronted with the question:  Is Jesus truly worth following?  I don’t mean the Jesus that our culture propagates, but rather, the Jesus of the Bible.  He Himself calls us to consider the cost, for the way of following Him is one of laying down our lives…loving Him more than anyone or anything else… concerning ourselves with God’s glory, and no longer our own…suffering…hardship…difficulty…and living as ‘aliens and strangers’, to name but a few.  In fact, Jesus says that if we are unwilling to follow Him, having considered these costs, that we are not His disciples.  So again I am confronted, is Jesus worth following?  Is He worth giving up my freedom, dreams, ambitions, and self-preservation instinct to isolate myself from hardship and difficulty?

Recently I was reading the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus said:

I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about the body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens:  They don’t sow or reap; they don’t have a storeroom or a barn; yet God feeds them.  Aren’t you worth much more than the birds?

Consider how the wildflowers grow:  They don’t labor or spin thread.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!  If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you – you of little faith?  Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious.  For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:22-24, 27-34, HCSB).

Though the call to follow Christ is radical, the reward is even greater!  Jesus tells us to stop the rat race, worrying about ourselves and what we will eat or drink, but rather, seek His kingdom, treasure Him above all things!  In seeking His Kingdom to lay down our lives and follow Christ, our lives become marked by His Lordship to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And as we do so, those things we naturally worry about (and arguably need), He will provide.  “Don’t be afraid little flock,” He says, “because your Father delights to give you the kingdom”!  And as recipients of the Kingdom itself, our lives are to be governed no longer by the principles of this world, but rather, by Kingdom ethics.  In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Isaiah 58, we are offered a picture of how these Kingdom ethics lead us to live:

This is the kind of fast I’m after:  to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I’m interested in seeing you do is:  sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.  Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.  I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones.  You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You’ll use the old rubble out of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again (vv. 6-12, the Message).

How do these Kingdom ethics lead us to live?  Setting aside our own ambitions and self-preservation, we are called to respond to His great love by being concerned for others, especially those on the down-and-out, and to exhaust ourselves of our time, energy, and resources for the sake of those in need.  But the amazing thing is, as we do so, our relationship with God will become more intimate; our lives will turn around and we will be bathed in His light; He will give us a full life as we engage even the emptiest of places; we will be like a well-watered garden, never running dry; and the Lord will use us to participate in His redemptive purposes!  Kingdom ethics are such that as we expend ourselves for His glory and renown, obeying His call to empty ourselves (much like He emptied Himself on our behalf), that we will not be in need, but rather, others will see His glory, be restored as we have been restored, and we will have abundant life that is without regret!

Brothers and sisters, I don’t know about you, but as for me and my family, our hearts’ desire is to pursue His Kingdom which is eternal and without end.  Is Jesus worth following, though it costs us everything?  Absolutely, for in doing so we gain Christ, the richest of all lives, the very purpose for which we have been made.  Therefore, we go, surrendering all things, setting aside the worries of this world, living lives in obedience (and worship) to the King of Kings as we “sell our possessions and give to the poor” for He has given us the Kingdom!  Will you accept His invitation and join His great revolution?

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