Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday's Meditation: Settling for Later

What if heaven sent us a gift but we tried to give it back?

When Jesus trained and released his disciples, he provided a remarkable level of equipping: “He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9: 1 - 2)

Even among those who welcome the signs of the Kingdom (which include among other things healing, cleansing, and freedom from demonic oppression), there is a tendency to consign the powerful manifestations of the Kingdom of God to another age.  “The day will come,” we might be tempted to say, “when he will wipe away every tear from our eyes and set the captives free.”  And we would be right because the fullness of the Kingdom is only realized at the end of the age. Theologians call this the tension between the “already” of the in-breaking of the Kingdom and the “not yet” of its completion.

What has troubled me in recent years is our habit of settling for the “not yet” when Jesus clearly gave us a task that requires heaven to break in now.  Jesus instructed his followers to seek the Kingdom and order our priorities around heaven coming to earth.  We live in the tension--the conflict--of this present age and the age to come.  But we are ambassadors of the Kingdom; it should be our native tongue.  The challenge--the temptation--comes when we settle for the “not yet” as an explanation for our inability to carry out the mission.

I have a friend who came upon an automobile accident just moments after the collision.  A baby was thrown from the car.  He scooped the infant into his arms and began to pray for the child’s life.  He cried out until the EMT’s arrived, but the baby was dead.  Overwhelmed by the trauma of the event he holed up in his apartment for days, sick over his inability to represent the Lord in a crisis.  He was not angry at the Lord: he was dissatisfied with the level of Kingdom authority in his life.  “You deserve better, Jesus,” he prayed for days.  “You deserve better.”  He emerged from his apartment with a determination to carry the Kingdom with him, because he was disciple.  Since that watershed tragedy his ministry has been marked by the consistent in-breaking of the Kingdom, marked by signs and wonders.  His theology was unchanged, but his expectation had grown large.

The sick, the hurting, and the hungry are queuing up because their need is now.  Should we teach them to be content with the “Not Yet?”


  1. this kind of experience is so important, and i think typically people hear about it and think, well that was a special experience for them, but still don't seek it for themselves...and leaders should be encouraing them to seek it!

    i was having a conversation last year with rob morris from love146, and he asked me if i thought in order to wake up and do something about injustice, do people need to experience injustice? i knew the "right" answer was no, if they are christians and have an elementary understanding of the bible, then they should be "on mission" and doing something about injustice...but that is merely the "right" answer; the "real" answer is yes, an experience of injustice catalyzes people to respond to it...and if we aren't encountering injustice somehow in our lives, then truly we are living terribly sheltered lives...

    in much the same way, i think we can be released in these experiential moments...they become turning-points where the gospel and the world come together in us and the Kingdom can shine forth...and then we seek and find more and more of them...and of course for those who say we shouldn't seek this power of God/signs and wonders stuff, i respond, seeking and finding is Kingdom-centric activity

  2. Thanks, Steven: when I said that signs of the Kingdom were "among other things" healing and such, I had justice in mind as one of those other things.

    There's an intersection between the "power stuff" and the "justice stuff." Sometimes it takes the power of God to bring justice. See the Exodus, for example, or the feeding of the 4,000 & 5,000. Imagine the result if an empowered people of God had a heart for justice. And the other way around: if the justice people had a desire to walk in the Kingdom power signs. We can feed people out of our own resources, but it would be better (and more effective) to feed them out of the resources of Heaven.