About 18 times a day I will tell one of my kids to do something. It’s usually something pretty simple: put on your shoes, turn off that light, rinse off your dinner plate, and so on. I know this may be a shocker to those of you who are parents, but my kids don’t always do what I say.
The amount of so-called logic they are able to summon is surprising. Their whining is noteworthy. You’d think I’d asked them to do something unreasonable.
I say, “Please put your backpack in the closet.”
They hear, “Find the square root of 18,354.91…and don’t forget to show your work.”
I say, “Close the door behind you.”
They hear, “Engineer a clean energy solution that will transform the industry, creating a substance as cheap as coal, as powerful as oil, and as harmless to the environment as wind.”
They aren’t bad kids, and they often oblige, but when they don’t I have a line. It’s a total dad move, and I’m not proud of it (read: I am VERY proud of it). I suspect if you’re a parent you have a similar line. If you’re not, then you likely heard your own mom or dad utter a similarly annoying phrase as this. My phrase is:
“I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.”
It’s my own little way of saying, “Uh, you know, I’m serious about that.”
My little parenting genius got me to thinking about how Jesus must think we so-called disciples (the title necessitates that we follow in His steps, live as He lived, etc.) react to some of His teaching. Like my kids, we’re pretty good a lot of the time. Usually about the simpler commands. My son doesn’t usually pummel his sisters with his fists. My daughter normally does her homework without putting up much of a fight.
But there are certain instructions they seem to always hedge on. I don’t think they mean to forget, but they almost never remember to do it the way I said it the first time. I guess they thought I was kidding around.
When it comes to Jesus’ words, we get the stuff we think is most important right most of the time. Or maybe we have just mastered the simple stuff so we are content to “struggle” with the ones that are harder to take seriously.
One thing Jesus said that I’m afraid we don’t always take Him seriously on:
“My Kingdom is not of this world.”
If you don’t take my word for it, look it up for yourself. Jesus says it to Pilate in John 18:36. In fact, He says it twice, kind of like a parent repeating themselves for emphasis. I don’t think He wants Pilate to miss it. I don’t think He wants us to miss it, either.
When Jesus says that His Kingdom is not of this world, we need to understand what “kingdom” means. The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God. The pretty much includes everything, not just heaven like some folks think. So when Jesus says that His Kingdom is not of this world, I don’t think He means that He wants nothing to do with this world. I just think he means that His Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world.
This has some pretty stiff consequences for people who want to follow Jesus. Our allegiance should be to God’s Kingdom first, and all other kingdoms second. So if we are from South Korea, it’s totally cool to love South Korea. But you should never be more devoted to South Korea than you are to God’s Kingdom.
If our allegiances are more centered on God’s Kingdom, than our life’s work should reflect that. Instead of killing ourselves working to make more money to support our pursuit of the alleged American Dream, maybe we center our lives around a different priority–like advancing God’s Kingdom.
When I was a little kid in school, we would say the pledge of allegiance to the flag. I’m not anti-America at all, but as an adult the pledge of allegiance does scare me a little. Nations come and go. Rulers rise and fall. I never want to be more allied with a kingdom of this world than I am a kingdom from outside this world, because this world can be a pretty crummy place sometimes.
Yet a lot of folks are running around advancing their kingdom, or their company’s kingdom, or their parent’s kingdom, or their favorite sports team’s kingdom, or another kingdom. I don’t think Jesus cares two nickels about those kingdoms advancing, I think He cares about His Kingdom advancing. And, just as a reminder, His Kingdom is not of this world. It doesn’t play by the same rules.
So if you are more staunch in your stance with a political party than you are Jesus, repent. If you are more excited when your team wins than when God wins, repent. If you are too busy making money to notice that there are a lot of folks in this world who don’t get one square meal a day, much less three, then repent.
Here’s the deal: I don’t think Jesus was kidding when he said that his Kingdom was not of this world. And if we’re the type of people who say “Thy Kingdom come,” we probably ought to be the type of people who take very seriously their mandate to be an answer to that same prayer.
He’s not asking us. He’s telling us.