Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sprinkle - Fight (8) Jesus and Kingdom

Preston Sprinkle explains in his book called Fight how Jesus refocussed the meaning of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’s central message was not primarily about how to get to heaven when you die, or about becoming a better person. The central message of Jesus was about the coming of God’s kingdom.

But Jesus’s kingdom talk gets Him into hot water. The term kingdom isn’t invented by Jesus or the New Testament writers. Most people in Jesus’s day understand kingdom to mean the empire (kingdom) of Rome. Jewish people, as we have seen, tried to set up their own kingdom. So when Jesus talks about the kingdom, everyone already has a category to understand what He is saying. Jesus isn’t inventing a term or concept unknown to people. Rather, He takes a well-known concept, guts it, and stuffs it with new meaning. What God does with the concept of kingship in the Old Testament (for example in Deut. 17), Jesus does with kingdom throughout the Gospels. And one central feature of Jesus’s unkingdom-like kingdom is the issue of power and violence . Whereas all other kingdoms (Roman, Jewish, or whatever) are breaking in with force and violence, Jesus will erect the kingdom of peace without using violence. Put simply: Jesus preaches a demilitarized Deuteronomy 17-like kingdom.

So what does Jesus mean by “my kingdom is not of this world”? The answer comes in Jesus’s very next words: “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.” Nonviolence is at the heart of Jesus’s definition of kingdom (Fight chapter 5).

John uses the term world (kosmos) throughout his gospel and his letters to refer to “the systems of the world” or “social construction of reality.” 16 Put simply, world often means the way unbelievers do things. For instance, Jesus says that He has come to testify against the world that its deeds are evil (John 7: 7). Or as John will say elsewhere , “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2: 15). This does not refer to the material stuff on earth, nor does it refer to people, whom Jesus and John say we are to love. The “world” refers to the worldly systems that run against God’s way of doing things. Unjust economic systems, dehumanizing social classification, and advancing one’s kingdom through violence. These are all “of the world” (Fight chapter 5).

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