Multiply Justice

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The ‘At Hand’ Kingdom

Later on, after John was arrested by Herod Antipas, Jesus went to Galilee to preach God’s Good News. “At last the time has come!” he announced.”The Kingdom of God is near! Turn from your sins and believe this Good News!” (Mark 1:14-15 NLT)

By Mark Kelly

The news Jesus brought to Israel was the best ever. The dream of God’s kingdom come was about to come true. This Gospel wasn’t just about accepting the dead-and-risen Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven when you die. This was good news about living the Kingdom life here and now — a life of justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

Israel misunderstood what the Kingdom of God was about. They expected a political savior who would roll back Roman oppression and establish them as the world’s superpower. But we’ve also misunderstood Jesus’ good news.

In his book “The Kingdom of God,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks: “How does it come to pass that, with open Bibles before them, men and women should be wrong, not so much about certain details with respect to the Gospel, but about the whole thing? … wrong about its foundation, wrong about its central message, wrong about its objective, and wrong about how one comes into relationship with it.”

We know the Gospel is more than going to heaven when we die. Some churches preach an after-life Gospel, but many of us understand that God’s kingdom is here and now. What we have missed is the range and scope of God’s kingdom. There’s more to the Gospel than getting a life filled, here and now, with meaning and purpose.

We have disconnected the New Testament from the Old. God’s law and his prophets continually held up the Lord’s demand for justice and the promise of his “shalom,” a state of well-being, of lives and relationships transformed in every respect. Salvation is redemption, restoration, and re-creation in every aspect of a person’s life, both as an individual and as a person in community. The Kingdom is God’s reign of right relationships between people, before the Lord — his will done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Salvation — life in God’s “at hand” kingdom — is a fulfilled promise of redemption and restoration, the experience of re-creating our life together as God always intended. In a word: justice. What we accomplish today, one day the Lord will establish finally and completely.

The Kingdom of God is at hand! Live the Good News!

Mark Kelly is editor of Multiply Justice. Copyright © 2012 Kainos Press

The apple seed kingdom

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8 NAS)

By Mark Kelly

Have you ever pondered the power of a seed? An old proverb says, “A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.”

The apple seed is small, but a bit of math shows that single seed bursts with imagination-staggering potential. From just one seed springs a tree that, in due time, can yield a harvest of 500 apples a year. If each of those 500 apples bears 10 seeds, each of those in turn can, in due time, produce a tree that itself will bear 500 apples a year — each with 10 seeds, each producing a tree that will bear 500 apples a year, and so on.

In one fruitful season, a lone seed becomes 5,000. In a second season, 5,000 multiplies to 25 million seeds, which in turn become 125 billion seeds in a third season! And each tree produced in each generation also continues to yield 5,000 seeds a year. Amazing!

Jesus saw himself as the single seed of the Kingdom. John 12:24 records his saying that a seed, planted in the soil and dying, will produce “a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (NLT) He was even more explicit in John 15:8, saying those of us who are truly his disciples will bring glory to Abba Father by yielding a great harvest.

Jesus poured himself into his true disciples, then laid down his life so his powerful spirit could be multiplied. Today, more than 2 billion people worldwide identify themselves as Christians. Granted, many of them are Christian in name only, not true disciples, but you are a true disciple, aren’t you? What is the potential of your life if you brought just one person into the Kingdom each year? My math tells me that if each disciple made one new disciple a year, in 30 years 1 billion disciples could be made.

The Creator told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, and that is one command well obeyed. The Risen One, sent by his Father to multiply the Kingdom of Justice, said to his true disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21 NLT)

Mark Kelly is editor of Multiply Justice. Copyright © 2012 Kainos Press

The upside-down kingdom

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 NAS)

By Mark Kelly

When I was a kid, I used to hang my head off the couch and imagine the upside-down room was rightside-up, so the floor became the ceiling. How does that glass up there on the coffee table stay put?

You probably never did that, did you? If you had, it would have been great preparation for living in the Kingdom of God. Everything there is impossibly upside down too.

Matthew 6:24-34 records one of Jesus’ disorienting perspectives: “Don’t worry about everyday life, whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.” (NLT) Don’t we need to make those things a top priority? Who doesn’t worry about that, especially these days? And here’s Jesus saying that people who approach life that way are outside the Kingdom?

The Lord instructs us to focus our best attention and energies on seeking God’s kingdom and his “righteousness.” I know we aren’t big on word studies, but ‘righteousness’ translates a Greek word that means integrity or virtue — or justice. In modern Bible versions, it’s almost always translated ‘righteousness.’ Evangelical Christians are big on personal righteousness — on social justice, not so much. If you want an eye-opener about how dramatically upside-down the Kingdom is, compared to our middle-class “Christian” lives today, read through the New Testament and substitute ‘justice’ for ‘righteousness’ wherever you find it.

In Matthew 6:33, make that trade-out and you get “Seek first his kingdom and his justice.” What does that mean? What does social justice have to do with the Gospel? Was Jesus seriously saying that caring for the poor and oppressed should be top priority for his followers?

Are you getting that “head hanging off the couch” feeling yet?

Jesus was very seriously saying that his people are the ones for whom the pursuit of justice matters more than “daily bread.” That’s why, when the “sheep and goats” get processed for heaven or hell in Matthew 25, the sheep who had helped “the least of these” go to heaven — and the goats who didn’t, don’t.

If being a citizen of God’s kingdom and going to heaven has something to do with making a top priority of justice for the poor and oppressed, then a lot of us need to do some serious thinking.

A great place to do that is on your couch — with your head hanging upside down.

Mark Kelly is editor of Multiply Justice, located on the Internet at Copyright © 2012 Kainos Press

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