Sometimes we’re building our own kingdoms and we don’t even realize it, and other times we’re building our own kingdoms and that doesn’t even bother us. Kingdom language might be somewhat difficult in modern days because we’re not accustomed to seeing the world this way, so maybe we can just speak of being territorial. Everyone knows a territorial person when they see it in others, but it’s harder to see within ourselves (Matthew 7:5).
There’s a lot written about the subject on the web that would be easy to find, but a single aspect of this mentality we must be introspective enough to sense in ourselves is whether or not we wish to be exclusive and push people out or away. The aim is not to be universalists by any means. However, it can be too easy to see those who are unlike us in any capacity and wish them harm or worse. However, God’s will is that we also wish that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9).
This way of thinking receives the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:38-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) with eagerness to draw all that we come across in the world, no matter how alike or unlike us they are, into God’s love. It is a command of His (Matthew 4:19). It is not always the outlook that motivates us, but it should and that kind of selfless and sacrificial love should be the calling card of the Church (John 13:35).
How does a Christian avoid being territorial? Or how can they build God’s kingdom without the focus being on their own personal kingdom? Something what helps and excites me is drawing together and doing mission with different Christians in our community. It can be easy to do work with one’s church name associated with it, but when we remove titles and logos, we can focus primarily on fulfilling God’s calling to the global Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). This approach makes less of ourselves and much of Christ (John 3:30).
Now, it can be very easy to assign this kind of call to pastors in our lives. But it is equally important to every follower of Christ. We are all priests of His, after all (1 Peter 2:9). Throughout my life, I have heard Christians make weird flexes (I apologize for the Gen Z vernacular) to suggest that their church is better than others.
“My church lets us wear jeans – just come as you are!” “Oh really? Well, my pastor wears football jerseys on game day!”
“My church has baptized ___ people this year!” “My church feeds the hungry though!”
“My pastor spoke at the ___ conference this year and really got our name out there.” “Well my pastor doesn’t have time for conferences because he visits the sick in all of his free time.” “My pastor doesn’t need to speak at conferences because we’re already past capacity!”
These are only examples of pastoral/church related topics. Mix in the arguments over the accomplishments of your children, professional achievements, politics, the size of your garden, the number of vacations that you go on every year, the number of quotes from famous philosophers/theologians you can recite in every day language, whether you have an above ground pool, an itty-bitty square pool, or the larger bean shaped pool, etc., we modern-day Americans find ourselves in the constant fight to compete and prove our acceptability over those who are different than us. Let’s be explicit that this is a worldly quality and not given to us from our Lord (Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.).
Each and every one of you reading this blog, consider ways that you might partner with folks to do good and share God’s love to those around you. Imagine how God is asking that you partner with your friend who goes to the church down the street. Can you provide some kind of service to Sheltering Wings together by encouraging the women and children whose lives are on hold (James 1:27)? Can you partner with them to write letters to nursing staff who are integral to keeping our communities going and letting them know that God loves them and appreciates the way that they heal physical brokenness (Matthew 9:35)? Can you partner with them to write letters for hesitant mothers who seek assistance from Life Centers and let them know that they are beautifully created and so are their children – that God wants to know and love them and we as the Church will do all that we can to help? Can you partner with them to encourage those who live lives of service like the staff at Neighborhood Fellowship and Neighborhood Academy? When folks pour themselves out for others, it takes a toll and hearing your encouragement can be a tremendous breath of life from God.
You see? God rarely works powerfully when the Church gets territorial (1 Corinthians 3:3-9). However, God so often changes lives when vast numbers of His followers pour into our communities as the singular Body and Bride of Christ, finding ways to seek and save the lost and addressing spiritual and physical brokenness in the world around us in Christ’s name. May we go and love others around us unconditionally as Christ loved us, even as His enemies (Romans 5:8-10).
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff