Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world."
These words spoken by Jesus in response to Pilate's questioning hold a wealth of truth, mystery, hope and power. These words will set us free if we seek the truth that motivates their utterance. How often we lose sight of this central fact--that God's kingdom is from another place--while living out our faith in a fallen and broken world! While reading Oswald Chambers yesterday morning, I was struck again by some of the ways in which I have allowed the patterns and attitudes of this world to influence the way I live out each day.
Take productivity for example. It can weigh me down like a wet blanket sometimes. I can feel so restricted by this feeling that I must always be a productive and useful individual. But where is that in scripture?
Chambers says that "an active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others...In our Lord's life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today...the central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is not public usefulness to others...If you waste your time in overactivity, instead of being immersed in the great fundamental truths of God's redemption, then you will snap when stress and strain come."
In today's society of connectedness, long work hours, recognition and utilitarianism, as Christ followers, we can fall into these trappings quite easily if we are not continually "transformed by the renewing of our minds" with a refusal to "conform to the patterns of this world." (Romans 12:2)
As Christ-followers, throughout history we have regularly fallen into one of two camps when trying to reconcile "being in the world" with not being "of the world." These two extremes are isolation and compromise. Where do we fall today? In America, there are myriad ways we have gone to both extremes in one way or another, but mostly we have completely compromised so much and we are not living lives "worthy of the gospel." Many Christians do not have many close (or any?) non-Christian friends that they spend time with...there's isolation for you. And if we are spending time with them, how often are we embodying Christ, truly being his ambassador, a minister of reconciliation, salt and light, striving for peace and mercy?...that's where we fall into compromise. What about politics? I dare say that many Christians are compromising by seeking power in this nation through political institutions. Christ said that his "kingdom is not of THIS world." It is a daily battle to keep this truth in front of me, to not compromise according to the persuasions of this world, but to remain steadfast in the knowledge that Christ's kingdom brings true liberty, justice, peace and love and we are called to be bearers of his kingdom in this world.