In a word, what I am saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:48 (The Message)
I love this paraphrase of Matthew 5:48. It rightly summarizes what Jesus is calling His kingdom subjects to (especially in light of the previous verses). In this season we are focusing on real life discipleship. There is no doubt that disciples of Jesus ought to look different than subjects of the kingdom of this world. Jesus is our King. As His subjects, we are ambassadors to this foreign land we live in. We ought to reflect His kingdom values and be a faithful, non-anxious presence in this high anxiety world.
Carey Nieuwhof recently shared a fabulous blog entitled, 3 Ways the Modern World Destroys Your joy, Hope, and Faith in Everything (and How to fight back). He argues that having too many choices undermines our joy. We become paralyzed by FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. If we choose, then we may miss out on something better. So, we avoid committing to things, or choosing. And we miss out. The second thing he highlights is the commodification of loneliness. One would think that social media would alleviate loneliness. Instead, relationships are more surface and designed for validation from strangers rather than being honest, vulnerable (and yes, dangerous) friendships. The third issue robbing us of joy, hope and faith is the apocalyptic spectacle of “politics as entertainment.” We live in a world of selective reporting that leads to a negative view of the world; a negativity bias that sees the “world going to hell in a handbasket.” This leads to a polarization on issues based on gross oversimplification. We do not want reality – reality is boring and complicated. We want simple, apocalyptic entertainment. Nieuwhof argues that we live in an affluent society addicted to a hunger for apocalypse – every little issue is seen as “the sky is falling.” He notes that we want from the world what we are hesitant to dole out to others – justice, love, understanding and kindness.
It seems to me that we do live in a society short on Joy, Hope and Faith. Worse, followers of Jesus can get caught up the very things that destroy human flourishing. This is where real life discipleship comes in. As subjects of Jesus’ Kingdom, we are called to grow up, to be mature. To live out our God-given identity towards others generously and graciously (as He lives towards us). This is to make a simple point.
Real life discipleship is not about more knowledge. It is about living as kingdom subjects who dole out what we want from others – justice, love, and kindness.
We need the power of Jesus and His Holy Spirit for this. Yet we have a part in this too. My part is to focus on things above, practice contentment, thankfulness (undermine FOMO!). I am called to live out my faith in community, not substituting “safe” surface validation of strangers for the honest, refining deep communication of brothers and sisters.
Lastly, I am called to put away this addiction to oversimplifying and overdramatizing the events of the world I live in. I am called to live out my faith as a disciple in the real world. And the real world is more complex than the media portrays it to be (and as I am tempted to think it is). That is why James and Jesus reminded us to be slow to judge. The world and its issues are complex, and I do not have all the data. So obedient disciples of Jesus are slow to speak, anger and judge. We are quick to listen and entrust justice to the One who has all the data. And while we are here (as His ambassadors), we should ask ourselves, “If success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do…How would I be? What would I do?” This might lead us to being real life disciples who in some small ways, create pockets of grace and flourishing in this post-fall world that reflect God’s pre-fall design.
EFCC Executive Director