Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Isaiah 58:1-12, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Mark 9:42-50
In our current political climate, both left- and right-leaning Christians are working hard at shaping the law of the land to better resemble their idea of the Kingdom. Of course this shape is not clearly defined anywhere in scripture. Instead of definitions we get parables comparing it to everything from sumptuous banquets to lost sheep. So we have some Christians who want to impose more rules, some Christians who want to reduce discrimination against people who don’t follow those rules, and a whole lot in the middle left wondering how we can disagree so strongly.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, written from prison, he tells his young protégé not to be ashamed that the empire has jailed him, but to join him in suffering for the Gospel. He doesn’t tell Timothy to try to force the empire to change; rather he understands he resides in a Kingdom which is not defined by walls, laws, or empire. Neither he nor Timothy will submit to laws that run counter to the Gospel, and they understand there is a holy penalty to be paid for their behavior.
Are we Christians called to transform the world? If we are, we must do it like Paul did, by transforming ourselves into models of Christ, who submitted unto death. The empire’s tools of persuasion are the sword and spear, but we transform them into the plowshare and pruning hook: the threat of death versus the promise of life. Paul expanded the Kingdom without passing a single law or firing a single shot.
Jesus warned his disciples that once salt had lost its saltiness, it could not be seasoned again. We might have some small success seasoning the empire to align more with our tastes, but in the end we are a small ingredient caught up in a recipe for disaster. We can’t change the empire by force, and insisting on doing so eventually dilutes our essential identity.
We should be less concerned with whether we see the Kingdom when we look around, and more with whether strangers can see it when they look at us.
Comfort: We travel the Kingdom of Heaven from the inside outward.
Challenge: Salt in the pure form we enjoy does not lose its saltiness, but in Jesus’s time salt was not nearly as pure. Read up on it here.
Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I will do my best to be recognized as an ambassador of your Kingdom. Amen.
Discussion: How can we influence change through love rather than force?
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