First the Kingdom of God: Excerpts Related to Social Justice
WCIU Journal: Social Justice Topic
June 24, 2019
Excerpts are taken from the WCIU Press book, First the Kingdom of God: Global Voices on Global Missions.
From the Chapter: “The Church and the Kingdom of God: A Theological Reflection” by Peter Kuzmic—Founder and President of Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia and Distinguished Professor of World Missions & European Studies at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.
“The attempt to identify the Church with the Kingdom is not only unbiblical, but also highly dangerous. The history of the Church provides ample evidence for this, from the Constantinian era to the present. It teaches us that whenever and wherever the Church equates itself with the Kingdom of God, it will be tempted to grasp, hold, and abuse earthly power. “
“The Church is the result of the preaching of the Kingdom of God, the fellowship of those who have experienced the power and tasted the blessings of the Kingdom. “
The Kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ are two key New Testament concepts, both crucial for the understanding of God’s plan for humanity and central to the fulfillment of his redemptive purpose.
“What exactly is the relationship between the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached and the Church he founded? It is of immense importance for us as we discuss the nature and the mission of the Church to understand the intentions of Jesus. I am somewhat concerned that in our evangelical and evangelistic activism we are tempted to put the cart before the horse. We must understand who we are before we can know what we are to do. It is imperative for us to examine both our conscious and our hidden assumptions in the full light of the divine plan and purpose, taking into account the totality of scriptural teaching, so that our task may first of all be our obedient understanding of his task and that our mission may naturally proceed from the quality of our spiritual nature and being. Acting must be a natural outgrowth of being. The mission of God carried out in our world requires the people of God. The shining of the light in the world presupposes light, and the salty effect on the earth results from the quality of the salt. “
“The entrance of the new age into the present old age is verbally announced and powerfully demonstrated by his person in acts of mercy defeating the powers of evil. The same pattern is evident as Jesus sends out his disciples with the twofold task of proclaiming the Kingdom and performing the signs that are characteristic of its arrival—healing the sick and casting out demons (see Luke 10:9, 11, 17). In obedience to his command and empowered by his kingly authority, the disciples carried the message and demonstrated the power of the Kingdom in the same way that he did.”
“The contemporary evangelical movement, with its emphasis on individualism, its striving for measurable success, and its spirit of worldly competition in both the expansion of its programs at home and its missionary endeavors abroad, stands in grave danger of being permeated by the spirit and values of this world. To me, an outsider,—and to many of my brethren—some of the Western-sponsored missionary and evangelistic enterprises come across as self-serving organizations baptized with a Christian name, rather than an expression of the servant spirit of the Kingdom of God. “
“It is clear that in the New Testament Church the Christ-given commission to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God is linked with the equipping power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the forces of evil.”
From the Chapter: “Unlikely” Contributions Toward a Global Social Ethic: Can Anything Good Come from There? by Ruth Padilla DeBorst—a Latin American evangelical theologian affiliated with the Latin American Theological Fellowship and based in Costa Rica.
“Could engaged response to the cries of lives broken by poverty, injustice, and oppression in its many forms—at the hand of unscrupulous employers, of sexual aggressors, of corrupt landowners, of immigration officials, of invading armies, of drugs and alcohol—be directly related to the layers of comfort, satiation, and excess insulating us from those in need, whether we live in the North or the South? Might there be lessons to be learned from those Majority World churches that not only serve the poor “out there” but are the poor, and wrestle daily with the need to see God in the midst of their plight? “
Where Christ is Confessed as King, Men and Women Realign their Loyalties
“Christians are primarily called to remain faithful to the one and only Lord, the One whose lordship was exercised by giving himself away, in life and in death. In God’s social ordering, Number One is someone other than self. Might it not be true, then, that when individual rights are erected as the baseline for all ethical decisions, personal boundaries are staked out over and against those of others, and personal and national security become the main goals of life, the radical call of the King who gave himself away to others in life and death gets muffled and tucked away?”
“If Christ’s lordship precludes primary loyalty to self, neither does it grant space to hegemonic claims of the nation or ruler of the day. As Rasmussen points out, “the social ethics [of the church] are... formulated from the nature of the new order under the lordship of Jesus, and not from the requirements of culture and its maintenance by whoever happens to possess access to power in the moment.”
“Christians from places as diverse as Iraq and El Salvador, Palestine and Colombia would concur: An enormous contribution of North American Christians to the rest of the world would be the realignment of their loyalties, a discerning separation of the claims of God and those of American national interests, and an adamant unwillingness to legitimize imperial crusades.”