Citizens of Two Kingdoms, Part II (CC-10)
This post is the continuation of the previous one titled Citizens of Two Kingdoms, Part I. Obviously, the two kingdoms refer to the temporal and eternal worlds. In this discussion, I try to answer the question of how a Christian should behave as someone with two citizenships; where must his allegiance be, with the spiritual or the material world? Or can he be a 'frequent flyer' between the two realms, a position that will let him take Jesus' message of hope to all people? Read on to find out!
How is a Christian to Behave?
The world nowadays does not show a pretty picture, but the description is true and real. Like it or not, we have to face reality. We should never forget that God chose for us to live in the temporal world before we live in eternity. What does this mean? It merely means that we Christians are to spend some time in the earthly kingdom to prepare for eternal life. We were born here, we lived and raised our families here, and we died here. So did our forefathers, and so will do our children. Even the Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven to experience life among us as man and to bring us salvation. On this earth, we come to know Jesus Christ, learn to walk in his footsteps, and prepare our souls for eternal life. This earth is, therefore, the only physical home we have during our temporal existence.
On another hand, the Bible teaches us that being worldly is not a state desired by God. Worldliness is a condition of being concerned with worldly affairs to the total neglect of spiritual things. Apostle Paul calls it "spiritual immaturity" and describes it as the exact opposite of godliness. Worldly wisdom is not wisdom at all; instead, it is foolishness, especially related to matters of faith and spirituality.
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Since Christ's time, believers have been confronted with questions such as "How am I to behave in the earthly kingdom?" or "How should I protect myself from worldly corruption?" or "How can I spread the Word among unbelievers if I don't mingle with them?" Christianity's history shows that answers to above the questions have led to two distinct ways of Christian behavior: separation and engagement.
Separation is the tendency of some believers to isolate and withdraw, seek their crowd, and create their own little separate world. This kind of thinking has produced the Middle Ages monasteries, where people built brick-and-mortar walls to seclude themselves from the world and stay protected from its temptations. Nowadays, we still have 21st-century monasteries surrounded by high walls of thought and seclusion, walls equally effective as those of the Middle Age, to keep their inhabitants apart from the worldly kingdom.
One of the problems with separation is that it teaches young believers to avoid evil instead of overcoming it. They are not instructed how to fight the good fight of faith, but rather how to stay away from it. The truth is that worldliness is not a question of material things, or doing this or not doing that. Worldliness is a matter of the heart's attitude in thinking and dealing with things. We can even say that everything is worldly if the heart is concerned with the approval or disapproval of those around you. The opposite is also true: when the eye is fixated on the Lord, everything is spiritual.
JESUS DID NOT WANT US
TO SEPARATE AND ISOLATE FROM THE WORLD
Engagement is the exact opposite of separation. Engagement simply means following Christ's calling to his disciples:
"I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to
the ends of the earth." (Acts 13:47)
Jesus is sending his disciples into the geographical and psychological realm of men. Engagement signifies going out there with the mission of bringing light to all people. It stands for entering the world in all possible ways, comprehending its thinking, attitudes, and behavior. Only this way, you can understand and sympathize with the suffering next-door neighbor of the world and lost into the world. Engagement means becoming sensitive to the cries surrounding us; it implies regaining the spirit of willing sacrifice for others' benefit. Engagement denotes taking responsibility for your actions, giving yourself to solving others' problems, particularly if they are lost worldly sheep. Engagement means obeying the temporal laws, as Scriptures instruct us,
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13:1)
But how do you reach the world and still not become like it? The answer is simple: We must learn to live on the frontier between these two kingdoms, spirituality and worldliness. We, as spiritual creatures, must learn to be in the world, but not of it. We must voluntarily walk into the world, seek out worldly friends and deliberately cultivate their friendship. We must invite them into our homes and go into theirs. Sure, we must ignore things irritating to us, such as some of their habits, way of thinking, and talking. But we should not shut ourselves away from the perils, dangers, and dilemmas of the world. Our Lord forbids us.
We must be distinctive and different from worldly people, as Jesus Christ was distinctive and different from his contemporaries. Our attitudes and values must be uniquely Christian and we should display them in a most-likely hostile world. Isn't this going to be dangerous, one may ask? Wouldn't it be like sending sheep among the wolves? Of course, it will be hazardous, but this is what makes a Christlike life so extraordinary, challenging, and stimulating. Besides, the Lord is going to protect us.
Remember, the Almighty wishes us to do his work on the frontier, where we're always under subtle and not-so-subtle attacks. He wants us to become the instruments by which some of the worldly wolves become sheep-like ourselves. Our Lord wants us to be tried, face problems, and always wonder what to do about a particular situation. And, to pray for his guidance while searching for solutions inspired by the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, we can sum up the Christian engagement with the world as follows:
• go into the world to spread the Good News and bring glory to God.
• stand at the frontier of the two kingdoms bringing forth the Word of Life.
• be in the world, but not of it.
• identify with its sufferings but not with its attitudes.
• represent Christ in it and intercede on its behalf because it is under judgment.
• be Christlike in character and behavior.
• bring Christian influence upon the world's life without being corrupted by the world's ways.
The Great Commission
It is not difficult to see that engagement is actually the Great Commission, the last recorded personal instruction given by Jesus to his disciples. The Great Commission is also the special calling from Christ to all his followers to take specific action while on earth, as found in the Gospel of Matthew 28:18-20,
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The Great Commission is the end of the Gospel and the beginning of exercising faith in action for all Christians. Jesus calls his followers to act and share the Good News of salvation throughout the world. Throughout history, believers have heard his call and traveled on missionary trips to remote places beyond the civilized cities into jungles, mountains, or deserts. Mission fields can also be close to home: a single-mother co-worker, a poverty-stricken family just around the block, feeding the hungry at a community kitchen. Besides, the internet has become a mission field of unfathomable size, where people can reach out and share Christ's love.
In the Great Commission, Jesus calls every Christian to step out in faith and spread the Good News. This is faith in action! People who obey this command change their spiritual lives forever. It could be spreading the Good News to a neighbor or moving to another country to reach the people there. It could be sharing with less fortunate kids down the street or spreading the Word in a town two hours away. Wherever we go, every faithful Christian is compelled through obedience to share the Gospel.
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Useful links: Moody Bible Rick Warren