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Theirs is the Kingdom


For our SOS Academy year, we will be studying several books on the topics of world missions, poverty, urban ministry, discipleship, etc. Today, I am posting a reflection paper from one of our first books, Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton of Atlanta.

“I want to stop reading this book!”

I scribbled those words in the margins after only thirty pages, my flesh bristling against the growing conviction that resulted from Lupton’s honest testimonials about 30 years of ministry in the neglected inner city of Atlanta. His short stories were serving as a mirror for my spirit, revealing the shallowness of mercy and love that I share with others. Reading his words, I heard the echo of some of Jesus’ most poignant words for any who would follow him: “No greater love has any man than this than to lay down his life for his friend.”

The brand of sacrificial love that Lupton describes in this book is painfully beautiful—painful in its sacrifice and discomfort, beautiful in its subversion to the world and submission to Christ. I deeply appreciate Lupton’s candor about the difficulty of such love, in particular among the poor. He doesn’t pull the wool over the readers’ eyes that true sacrificial love does not come natural to him or anyone.

Yes, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light, but his call to discipleship is radical. While viewing Lupton’s portrait of what sacrificially loving the marginalized can look like, my heart grew sad and perplexed. Why had I not previously encountered a portrait of this breed of discipleship? If loving Jesus and consequently loving my neighbors can look like this, why haven’t I witnessed it more often? Where did we veer off track?

There were countless thoughts of revolutionary simplicity that gripped me in this book. Lupton’s tells us about an evicted family moving into an overcrowded and nearly unemployed family member’s home, after he rejected them, and he states, “It is a haunting reminder of the energy I spend avoiding the cost of loving others.” I then wonder: How often do I give faith a chance? How often do I seek comfort and familiarity over the love and surprise outpouring of blessing that could be born in an uncomfortable arrangement like he describes? I am such a comfort-seeker.

I have suffered an addiction to efficiency for quite some time, so Lupton’s chapter entitled “Kingdom Efficiency” immediately reeled me in. Before reading his story, I could almost imagine what would challenge the natural lean of my heart: relationships rather than efficiency and productivity. Lupton takes it one step further and says that the building blocks of the kingdom are “inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships.” Oh, boy. I want to want that, but it’s so unnatural.

The wealth of Lupton’s experience and wisdom will largely be lost on me until I come face to face with situations like those he describes and I am forced to depend on God for strength as Lupton did. But if I take one nugget with me and treasure it, it might be the imagery that Lupton paints early on in his chapter “Please Sit In My Chair.” In it, he states, “To invite Mrs. Smith into our home…there will be stubborn offensive odors in our living room.”

Will I humble myself and open up the intimate places of my life, both in our home and metaphorically, to the uncomfortable stench of hurting people? Will I follow Christ in loving the unlovable and laying down my life for the least of these?

Comments

Christie said…
hi jk!! wow i love reading your blog. after reading this, i wanna read that book. or maybe i dont... i dont know. im glad to hear that you and amber are really being challenged down in memphis, and that God is working in your lives!! so awesome! : ) God is good~
Jonathan said…
thanks! glad you stopped in. how are you and where are you now?

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