Pondering the seemingly endless stream of horrific events like the recent Orlando shooting can certainly drive us into despair over what our culture has become. Are we, as a society, doomed to sink into some fear-driven apocalyptic morass of helpless victims, haters, and sociopaths?
As I was watching and reading about the shooting, my heart went out to the survivors and victims’ families, and I wondered what would come from this terrible crime. This also reminded me of an exhortation my wife, Maureen, gave during our worship a couple of weeks ago. I’ve included a recording here of that word, along with excerpts from a spontaneous song that followed by our worship pastor, Levi Blackburn.
Beloved, Jesus said we have the keys to the kingdom—to bind the powers of hell and loose the power of heaven on the earth (Matt.16:19), for we are heaven touching earth. And His relentless mission is to fully incarnate Himself in us, to where we, with kingdom-renewed minds and love-enlivened hearts, would prove to this broken world what our heavenly Father is really like…that what He wants for all is “good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom.12:2). This is what brings Him glory and honor.
Jesus’ kingdom has come exactly for this reason. To overcome our slavish Adamic grace-hating fear with His perfect love…to restore all people…perpetrators and victims alike. And His plan is to do that through us.
Of course, we need to know this about ourselves and stop acting like powerless victims, shaking our heads with pompous arrogance, glibly pointing to these tragedies in order to justify our fearmongering eschatology that condemns the world Jesus loves to some inevitable doom. We need to stop selfishly following “the way of Cain,” blame-shifting and abdicating our responsibility to our fellow sojourners here on this earth.
Jesus came to end our inhumanity to man by becoming the ultimate victim of our angry mob scapegoating and pitting ourselves against one another. Aristotle once postulated that if the perfect citizen were ever to appear in society we would probably ostracize him and eventually kill him. Of course, this is exactly what we did to Perfect Love on Calvary.
Yet, it’s this same perfect love that says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” It’s this One who calms our guilt-ridden fears by saying, “Peace be to you” when we stand horrified at what we have just done to Love.
Jesus brought a kingdom that loves its enemies, does not retaliate but returns evil with good. It’s a kingdom that blesses and prays for the persecutor, bears all things, hopes all things, does not keep a record of wrong, and it’s not built on prejudice, retribution and revenge but built on forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
It is precisely this kingdom that is within you (Luke 17:20-21). It’s not up in the sky somewhere, or waiting for another time…it’s here…now…on the earth…residing in your human flesh. Jesus seems to think we are to be as He is in this world (1 John 4:17). But the question is, what do we think?
As Maureen shared, we pray Jesus’ prayer for heaven to come to earth, but how did He intend it to come? While we affirm that Jesus Himself is coming again, if it’s true about us in Christ, is it not also true that His kingdom is coming down in you and me? Yes! Everything that’s in heaven—agape love, mercy, and grace—is to come through us.
Do you understand what I’m saying? We have the cure to what ails this world…living in us…Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col.1:27). It’s time that we, God’s Sleeping Beauty, His beloved, let our Prince of Peace kiss us awake from this religious orphan slumber that the god of this age has put us under.
14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph.5:14 NIV)
We must let Christ arise and shine in and through us. We need to awaken to who we are in Him so that we can be His hope and light in this world.
And what is that hope…what is that light? It’s radiant Love shining out of us in the midst of a darkened world full of fear. It’s the realization of the deepest desire everyone longs for but never thought possible. It’s the good news that we don’t have to hide from God or from each other anymore. We can stop lurking in the shadows, blame-shifting, hiding the bodies and abdicating personal responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We are free to fully embrace Love, to be embraced by Love, and embrace each other in Him, knowing that His love never fails.
I shared this popular passage before, but it bears repeating here because I believe it’s prophetic for the time we’re living in. This prophecy is about Christ, but it’s also about us, for He has forever tied His identity and inheritance to ours. He came to show us what it means to be fully human. His life and purpose is now our life and purpose on this earth (Col.3:3). I believe the Spirit is saying, “do you have ears to hear?” Selah.
Arise, my people! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. 2 Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you. 3 All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see the glory of the Lord upon you. (Isa. 60:1-3 TLB)