Resilience and the Expanding Kingdom

 

This article has been previously published by Micah Global, but it is a wonderful expression of the story that God is weaving, even as the travails of 2020 continue to affect us. Who could have known that nearly a year later from this article’s first publication, the coronavirus would be touching 100 million infected? What then is the church’s role, our role, in God’s story?

 

It has been a slam-bang beginning (Note: this article was written in early 2020). This early, we have seen the ravages of wounded nature fighting back. Bushfires raging without letup in the wild outback of Australia. Taal volcano erupting, spewing a black plume of cloud-like ash falling on miles and miles of towns and cities. The novel coronavirus killing hundreds in Wuhan and spreading silently and quickly its deadly menace across the globe.

All these, plus the never-ending wrongs inflicted by corrupt governments in rogue states and the dying of democracy in many parts of the world. In times like this it is easy to bury our heads in the sand and make what some call ‘a separate peace.’ In the face of despotic governance, many take to the high seas like our sea-faring ancestors. We do not revolt; we just migrate to other climes. 

Church people see in all these signs of the ‘end times.’ Some see no reason for re-arranging social reality; it is a dying world, it is said, let us just evangelize and save as many as we can from this sinking ship. This line of thinking misunderstands the nature of our good news. The gospel is not just about securing a ticket to heaven. It is about making this earth a bit more like heaven.

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, he told them to bring this message to the lost sheep of Israel: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ The longed-for restoration of the Davidic kingdom, the best in their memory of what a good government is like, has come in the person of the Messiah Jesus. 

The good news is that a new social order is coming into being, this time backed up by supernatural signs and wonders: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10.7-8) With the coming of Jesus, the powers of heaven have descended. A new reign of justice and righteousness has begun.  

This new order inaugurated by Jesus is here now, though in many ways hidden. It becomes visible when the people of God behave like true people of the Kingdom – fighting injustice, treating with kindness and compassion those in the margins, and walking with God in such a way that we ourselves are transformed. (Micah 6.8)

At the end of the day, the story that God is weaving through the travails of our time is our own re-making as a grand ‘poem’ – a ‘workmanship,’ created and crafted by the Lord Jesus for the good work he has prepared for us beforehand. (Ephesians 2.10) 

This ‘good work’ is not just the bits and pieces we do as good disciples in our lives and professions, but no less than the making of “a new heaven and a new earth.” We have been saved, not just to sit around and wait for the rapture or some such thing, but to storm the gates of hell in this sad earth.

The church is not just a hospital for the walking wounded, but an army, tasked with reclaiming, inch-by-inch, territory already won by Jesus on the cross. We are to be at the center of the fray, battling (spiritually) against principalities and powers that are entrenched in our systems and institutions. For this reason we need to be spiritually resilient, strengthened by the Spirit and wielding the Word as a mighty sword that pierces through all sorts of fake news.  

The end of this story, we are told, is that we shall be like a spotless Bride coming down from heaven, inhabiting a new Jerusalem set in a new earth that we shall inherit.  (Rev.21.1-7)

The Bible tells us that we are not really going anywhere, but here. In Jesus, heaven has come down, and the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdom of our God. (Rev.11.15)

 

Dr. Maggay (right) reviews some writing during the Christian Writing for Advocacy workshop with a participant. Source: Malaysian CARE

 

This article is part of a series written by various authors after a Christian Writing for Advocacy Workshop organised by Micah Global, Malaysian CARE, and CTI in mid-2019. Dr. Melba Padilla Maggay assisted in conducting this session.

 

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