How are we living today for the coming Kingdom of God?
Do we believe what N.T. Wright describes in his book Surprised by Hope: that God’s purpose is that of rescue and recreation for the entire world and the entire cosmos? (pg. 184). If so, we need to show the world what is true, what is good, what is beautiful, ultimately what is God. How do we do that? By living distinctly different lives apart from the dominant culture. Lives that reflect who Jesus is and how He lived on earth.
When we understand that we are a part of an ongoing love story—one that started with the Israelites in the Old Testament, found its climax in the person, life, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and continues with the church today—we will be empowered with the Holy Spirit and compelled to live today for the coming Kingdom of God.
There’s a story told by Ken Gire (1998) in his book The Reflective Life called “The Old Onion Seller”:
In a shady corner of the great market at Mexico City was an old Indian named Pota-lamo. He had twenty strings of onions hanging in front of him.
An American from Chicago came up and said: “How much for a string of onions?”
“Ten cents,” said Pota-lamo. “How much for two strings?” “Twenty cents,” was the reply.
“How much for three strings?” “Thirty cents,” was the answer.
“Not much reduction in that,” said the American. “Would you take twenty-five cents?”
“No,” replied the Indian. “How much for your whole 20 strings?” asked the American.
“I would not sell you my 20 strings,” replied the Indian. “Why not?” said the American. “Aren’t you here to sell your onions?”
“No,” replied the Indian. “I am here to live my life. I love this market place. I love the crowds and the red serapes. I love the sunlight and the waving palmettos. I love to have Pedro and Luis come by and say: “Buenas dias!’ and talk about the babies and the crops. I love to see my friends. That is my life. For that I sit here all day and sell my twenty strings of onions. But if I sell all my onions to one customer, then is my day ended. I have lost my life that I love—and that I will not do.”
So what does the story tell us about living today for the coming Kingdom of God?
First, we need to recognize the grip that our own culture holds on us and reject those values. The American in the story expected a deal, a capitalistic bargaining technique, but in God’s Kingdom, money is not the issue, and the goal is something much different than simply sales and profits.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. We need to consider how we conform to what the world thinks is important and how we can break out of that conformity and conform to what God thinks is important.
Second, we need to embrace a communal life—not one that focuses on the individual. For the onion seller, life was sitting in the market, enjoying the neighborhood, soaking in nature, and conversing with friends. Acts 2 paints a compelling picture of the early church and what true community looked like in their early world. Verse 42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…and all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” We, as a church, need to consider what community could look like today.
Finally, we need to live as people of hope—hope in the present world, not just a future life in heaven—the kind of hope that the onion seller has that sees his presence in the market place as an integral part of his world as well. He is not worried about the future but he lives in the here and now—spreading love and joy in his corner of the world.
Colossians 1:27-28 says, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” As the church, we need to reflect God in our community because, as Wright says, “Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness…will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.”
When God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope of renewal became reality, and we, the church, are called to live as proponents of this world—believing the victory is already won. God’s love and mercy have defeated selfishness and injustice.
The challenge is ahead of us, and together we need to consider how to let go of some of our cultural buy-in, live in community with one another, and spread the hope in our world today that Jesus Christ is alive and accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We need to be a taste of the coming Kingdom of God.