In this sermon, Greg reinforces the message of the Kingdom of God by helping us see our lives not only in relationship to ourselves and those closest to us, but also in the “big picture” of what God is doing in the world. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is growing within the world to transform it. It is not only how it impacts our personal lives that matters, but also how our personal lives participate in the larger Kingdom efforts that God is calling us to.
Returning to some of the passages we looked at last week, Greg reinforced the message of the Kingdom of God by helping us see our lives not only in relationship to ourselves and those closest to us, but also in the “big picture” of what God is doing in the world. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is growing within the world to transform it. It is not only how it impacts our personal lives that matters but also how our personal lives participate in the larger Kingdom efforts that God is calling us to.
Greg used a physical example of how we often prefer our own small story to the larger one by physically pushing Greg Foote (one of our Overseers – and yes, he knew it was coming!). This action evoked in most of us a sympathetic desire to see justice served. The one who was pushed by Greg Boyd should push Greg Boyd back! But the point was that though we may feel that drive strongly, it will not actually reconcile the two. Justice may be served, but at the expense of the relationship. In the Kingdom of God, and that cost is far too high. Reconciliation with all people is always the goal if God is to be all in all. A brief look at the passages listed below will remind us that God intends us to respond differently than to return evil with evil, violence with violence.
When we do push back, or return violence with violence, we participate in the problem, not the solution. We pollute ourselves with the ways of the world, the rules of the kingdom of this world. This creates in us bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, malice. It is these that we are called to put away from ourselves. So what, then, do we do? Just be victims? NO. Recall Romans 12:17, 19-21. Overcome evil with good, NOT by force, but in the way that Christ did. God will handle justice; we can make reconciliation possible for our “enemy.” By serving them and seeking to turn their push into an embrace we call attention to the evil that exists in their hearts. We make possible godly conviction and conversion. These things may not turn toward us or toward God, but they are what we are called to do, and we will be imitating Christ well in the process. Our small story may be negatively impacted, but we will be writing a victory chapter for the Kingdom of God. We gave up no ground to those who oppose God! Don’t absorb the push and return it; instead, take that energy and convert it into an embrace (Greg Foote’s wrestling move intended to illustrate this).
We are to keep our conscience clear, even when we are wronged, and God’s conviction will come on those who do us harm. The contrast between the violence or evil done to us and the godliness of our response will put a mirror up to the face of the perpetrator to their shame and possibly to their repentance. Those who do us harm have a need to believe we deserve it. Let’s not give that to them. If we retaliate, we demonstrate that we are no better than their imaginations expected of us. But if we refuse to participate in the violence, they will have to rethink their beliefs about us. This is what it is to be a witness! The cycle of violence cannot end if push is returned with push. The only hope is to convert the energy into some form of reconciliation. This is what the Kingdom of God is doing in the world! Converting the “power over” world through “power under” love.
Some think that this sounds weak. It is no weaker than Jesus Christ was. If Christ is our Lord and our example, what real choice do we have? It takes FAR more strength to love our enemies than kill them. It is more complicated, it takes longer, it may cost us much in our personal lives, but it is the way of the Kingdom. It is the calling of those who would imitate Christ in this world. It is the Big Picture! Attacking with violence requires rejecting the “enemy” as a child of God, a brother or sister in humanity and potentially a child of the Kingdom! When is such a cost ever acceptable? Jesus demonstrated that we each are worth his dying for us. And he did this while we were still enemies of God!
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