By Rev. Glenn Martin
While reading my Bible at this early morning hour and anticipating a golf game which may have to be set aside, my spirit is being made aware of the urgency of Jesus’ words in Luke 10:9, “The kingdom of God has come near you.”
John the Baptist began the first New Testament sermon with these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew and Mark have Jesus beginning his ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
The scribe who asked Jesus “which commandment is first of all” and wisely answered his own question, was told by Jesus, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Jesus often spoke of the nearness of the kingdom of God. He even said to the Pharisees, “For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:21) When Jesus told the disciples to shake off the dust of their feet against the towns who would not receive them, he said “nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.” (Luke 10:9) Then h warns, “I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (Luke 10:12) Another similar warning follows for Chorazin Bethsaida and Capernaum. (Luke 10:13-15)
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness...” (Matt. 6:32) He said to one man “follow me.” The man answered, “Lord, let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59)
Another said, “Lord, I will follow you, but let me first say goodbye to my family.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom. Jesus is making very clear the urgency of hearing and receiving the gospel and the absolute firstness of the kingdom of God, even when honorable family duties call. (Luke 9:61, 62)
We have neglected to teach and preach this absolute firstness of the kingdom of God, and we have failed to live it. The pulpits of this nation have catered to the culture of our audiences. We have allowed our churches to become places of consolation for those who give a fraction of a tithe and live life as they please. Our culture of waste and buy more has overcome our gospel of the ownership of God and the stewardship of life.
The commercial world around us offers delayed easy payments for stuff we do not need. People are paid much to draw our attention to products that result in diminished health and lifetime addictions. Our children are absorbing the scenes of sex, violence, profanity, bear and promises of happiness from things.
Our technology has brought us many opportunities but for more temptations. It is never any better than the people who program it. Many, if not most TV programs are now rated TV14, which means that it is unsuitable for any age. A 14th birthday does not prepare a human being to be exposed to such trash; nor does a 21st birthday. Crimes of lust and violence have no age barriers - nor do temptations.
To really seek first the kingdom of God would put all of these things in their place, and many of them would have no place. It is not enough for the Kingdom of God to come near us.
It must be embraced, internalized and proclaimed.
That is the assignment of every Christian and every church. We could then pray the Lord’s prayer ... “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Martin is a retired clergy member of the Mississippi Conference.