Justice - 4
the Kingdom Tarries
OK, I know that the kingdom is “already here.” It is here in Spirit. It is here in principle. And it is here in occasional limited power manifestations that normal everyday people can actually see.
But this article speaks from a perspective of life that requires no faith. From the viewpoint of observable reality, the kingdom is not here. (I know this admission is not legal for some “kingdom” believers, but if in doubt about this, then maybe you can explain to me why you are still paying taxes to other governments and burying your dead in cemeteries.)
Now, let’s start again. The question is, Why does the kingdom of God still tarry to plainly dominate the earth? Why is Jesus not back yet in body? Why are the saints not immortalized with open authority over the remainder of nations? Just why is it—after 2000 years of waiting—we still have to speak of all this in terms of a future hope?
We can agree there are many reasons for this based in the plan of God. There are issues of timing and progression that must be fulfilled. But today I just want to highlight one very basic reason why the kingdom still tarries. It’s a reason that, once you think about it, should seem obvious. Yet—in all my exposure anyway—I’ve never heard any discourse on this.
What Does “Kingdom” Mean To You?
When we think of the kingdom, we tend to think of two things. We think of power. And we think of authority. When we think about power, we think of spiritual power to change visible situations. We think of the Lord as the All Powerful One, and of ourselves as accessing His situational changing power through prayer. We think of miracles of healing, provision, altering nature, casting out demons and of swaying decisions and attitudes in others.
When we think about authority, we tend to think about the Lord’s authority from heaven over spiritual principalities and demons. We think of his authority over nations and men in general. And we think about positional authority in the church—where the leading will of somebody with a designated title supersedes the will of somebody else—or everybody else.
All this is right. These all partly define the kingdom of God. But there is something much more basic, apart from which the rest can’t finally mean anything. And it’s for lack of this basic element that there certainly can be no manifest kingdom of God over the earth yet.
The Kingdom as Relational Government
As much as power and authority, the kingdom of God is about government, specifically government within and between people. Government within people is called self-government. Government between people is relational government. While “authority” is about the will of some overriding the will of others, relational “government” is about the ability of men to responsibly interact with one another in peace and agreement, especially in the face of conflicting wills.
More than power and authority, the kingdom of God is about relational government. It is about how believers in Christ relate and get along with one another over every issue of life—and how they maintain cohesion as an identifiable body in doing so. Any reading of the New Testament will show that there is as much or more taught on relationship among the followers of Christ than just about any other topic. This is because relational government is essential to manifesting the kingdom of God.
The operative word in conducting this relational government is love. “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” Tied to the Lord’s preeminent prayer that His Kingdom come, we understand that above all, love is about relational government. Love is about how we conduct our communications, our agreements and our clashes of will and purpose among one another. Jesus was really saying to the disciples, “By this shall all men behold my kingdom in the earth, by your ability to conduct love-based relational government as a cohesive body.”
A “Kingdom-less” People
As the Lord’s people in the earth, we are many things to all men. But if there is one thing we are definitely not, it is a cohesive relationally governed body. The truth is we are a social people in the earth, content to live under the government of nonbelievers. But we are not a governmental people. We demonstrate little capacity for personal self-government and virtually no capacity for relational government as the church.
In fact, what we really are is a relationally lawless people. We are a people of no certain government, and hence no real kingdom. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:
- The Constitutional Pattern of God’s Kingdom
Every kingdom is governed by law. The most basic form of all law is the human word. We know this because Jesus says to us, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned… out of your own mouth will I judge you.” Our words are the most fundamental law by which we live and by which we will be judged.
In turn our words between one another formulate the Law of the Church. That is, they form the Law by which the church functions as a self-governing body. The substance of our words between one another defines the substance of our viability as a self-regulating kingdom. This is not about our mutual worship of the Lord. It’s not about our anointing for ministry. It’s about our agreements and disagreements over the every day basic issues of life.
In establishing the church as a self-governing kingdom mediated by the law of the tongue, the Lord left but a few very basic instructions. For one, he said, “Let your yes be yes.” Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be faithful to what you have said and to what you have committed to do.
For another, He said (and I paraphrase), “If you know your brother has a grievance against you, be sure you reconcile it before you bring Me any further offering. And if you don’t deal with it before he comes to Me, his intercession to Me will lead to my arrest and imprisonment of you.”
For another, He said (and I again paraphrase), “If one of you has a disagreement with the other and cannot be heard, bring two or three others together to resolve the situation. If still not resolved, bring it to the wider body for judgment. And if still unresolvable, remove the diasagreeable party from your fellowship.” (Jesus is here establishing the court system for the church.)
Additionally He says, “If your brother sins against you and repents, forgive him.” This has two meanings. It means to let go of an issue if your brother repents of it. It can also mean, depending on the nature and severity of the issue, if you have presented the issue to your brother, do not forgive him until he repents. This may require further intercession regarding the brother, and possibly a “court appearance” before others. (The Lord also noted and the apostles understood that not every relational violation can simply be dismissed, forgiven out of hand or even interceded for.)
These are just a few of the injunctions the Lord gave us for becoming established as a relationally self-governed people. They form the constitutional basis for the manifestation of His Kingdom in the earth through relational government. The conducting of these principles through a spirit of selflessness defines the lawful meaning of love in the church. Mixed with fresh apostolic insight for application in each culture and generation, the few injunctions the Lord gives are enough on which to build the kingdom of God in the entire earth.
- Manifesting the “Non-Kingdom” of God
But if we look at the church as a whole throughout the world and history, what do we find? We find a body of people who—under the personal Law of the Tongue and the Mutual Law of the Church—have been and are essentially lawless. There has always been a severe lack of tongue self-government among the Lord’s people. Many people just can’t control what they have to say. Some justify a loose tongue as evidence of “the anointing.” Much personal “ministry” is just disguised verbal lawlessness.
Corporately, as a vast whole, there has been and is now no relational government in the church. There is no love demonstrated in terms of relational government. (Where there is no government, there can be no love.) Nor is there any viable court system for adjudicating issues of contention. At the founding of any church, the only issues raised are those of doctrine, polity and leadership position—and of course the “bylaws” and paperwork required for the “real” government to which we look for dispute resolution: the courts of Caesar.
The actual substance of most relationship within a church is flimsy. Believers routinely make statements of commitment they do not keep. When it comes to offenses or disagreements, believers routinely walk out of each other’s lives. Don’t want to face an issue? No problem. Just walk away. Don’t deal with it. Start over somewhere else—with some other church—start a new ministry—until the next hurdle. Then walk away again. There is little sense of accountability for how relationship is handled.
There is no bar of relational justice in the church. Spurious teachings that remove love and grace from their relationally governmental framework are used to promote relational injustice. So called “unconditional” love, forgiveness and mercy are frequently described as the ability to turn a blind eye to every offense, or smooth over every relational breach, no matter how grievous or what it’s impact on anyone’s heart or in the church. So relational injustice abounds.
From Then Til Now: Corrupted Leadership and Absent Love
Early on, Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they proved themselves incapable of adjudicating disputes among themselves, but rather needed to turn to the courts of Rome. Obviously, if the church is supposed to be a kingdom, the frequenting of courts outside the church by believers can only be an affront to Christ’s goal of manifesting the kingdom of God in the earth.
Clearly, things have not changed much since then. No matter how spiritually illumined or anointed any church may be today, the reality is that virtually every church is at the level of the Corinthian church when it comes to manifesting Kingdom love through relational government. Churches do not function as relationally governed bodies, but as positionally-led social bodies—having authority without government.
Authority without government has corrupted the concept of leadership in the church. Government holds leaders to the same basic standards of relational accountability as anyone else. But authority without government leads to the observing of double standards of behavior and accountability between shepherds and sheep. It leads to the continual excusing and cover up of failing leaders (the “Emperors Without Clothes” Syndrome). This in turn leads to the reactionary despising of all leadership itself.
Again it has to be said, where there is no relational government, there can be no real love in the church, for love is built on government. If a church has no bar for mediating relational justice, it is not governed by love. If a church has no vehicle for exercising church discipline, it is not governed by love. If a church uses forgiveness and mercy to thwart all concept of relational justice, it is not governed by love. Nor has it any meaningful definition of unity except by appearances. It is not manifesting the kingdom of God—even if it calls itself a “kingdom church.”
(I’ve sometimes heard it taught that the kingdom is outside the church. The church is the church, and the kingdom is the kingdom. But really, if the church can’t first demonstrate the kingdom, if it can’t function as God’s vessel of relational justice in the earth, where else on earth should the kingdom of God possibly be found??)
Why Does the Kingdom Tarry?
I have not made all the foregoing observations either to bash the way things are or to try to change them. (I’ve already taken my turn at this.) These observations are only in order to discover some truth. Our entire discussion leads to an ultimate question regarding our expectation of the Lord’s return:
Why is it we imminently expect the Lord to return with the saints to “rule over the nations” when the Lord’s central vessel of authority in the earth now—the church—shows basically no more proclivity to becoming a governmental people than it did when it began??
If the Lord is supposed to establish His manifest government, how can He do this without a body that has already been schooled in the art of relational government? From where is such government to come at His return? Thin air?
The title of this article is “Why the Kingdom Tarries.” I’m suggesting that if nothing else, the Kingdom of God has never been able to manifest in the earth through the Lord’s return simply because the church has never shown itself capable of living as a governmental people. And until it does, the Lord never will return. As long as the church remains no more than a social people content to live under the governments of beasts, the Lord will have nothing to come back to and no basis—no body, no vessel—for manifesting His rule over the nations.
And yet, there is this undeniable sense that the Lord’s actual return is so close at hand. How can we explain this? Is there any way?
Well, all I can say is, it seems like one of two things may be true. Either:
1) the church as we have known it for 2000 years has never been more than an experiment to prove that gentiles are just as incapable of stewarding God’s kingdom in the earth as were the Jews, and God is ready to replace us all with a new truly governmental people from somewhere else (maybe just the elect of every generation that proved themselves worthy in relational justice will be raised to form His manifest government with Him), or
2) the church of the generation of the Lord’s approach (which we believe so near) is going to go through some type of sudden worldwide cataclysm that will finally, after all this time, mold it into the relational governmental body capability of receiving the Lord and manifesting His government in the earth.
Or could it be that a combination of these things will happen?
I’ll leave that for you to decide. Ponder it well. But know this, the Lord wills that His Kingdom become fully manifestly established in the earth, demonstrated by a fully vested worldwide body that has first proven its worthiness and capability of exercising His relational justice in the earth. And until He has brought forth justice in the earth through such a body, not a word of all His purpose will fail.
Shall we meet to chat further about these things sometime…?
Riverside, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created October 20, 2016