August 8, 2012

The Least of These VIII: Equalization Based In Christ

Epilogue: Equalization in the Kingdom Based In Christ-Centeredness

As I did this paper I found that the idea or concept of the Kingdom of God is inescapable when dealing with the poor. Since all of history is moving inexorably towards this final destination in God’s scheme of things, we must be able to see how all things in the past and even in modern times are being shaped by a sovereign God to that ends. What is clear when we think of things holistically on God’s scale is that there can be no place for suffering, deprivation or inequality in the Kingdom of God. Things will need to be righted if we are ever to reach that consummation. The Kingdom of course is any place where God reigns in believer’s/people’s hearts. If God reigns in people’s hearts the premise is that all will dwell equally in unity and in love…in Jesus Christ as I’ve state profusely in this paper.

Herein is the key to understanding why Jesus called us to help the poor. I believe it is as simple as a matter of equalization or normalization of relations between all those that will be in the Kingdom with God or those welcomed into it. This applies to not only the Apostles, but to us as individual believers in the 21st century and all those in between. The problem is that, because the Kingdom has not yet fully come, we cannot know fully what it will be like. We can only follow Jesus’ example in accordance with Scripture in faith to try and align ourselves with where we believe we need to be to best fulfill this. In so doing I believe it helps to eradicate many of the things that are currently in human lives that would prevent us from being in the Kingdom together in harmony. Whether it be the fact that our neighbor is more destitute or disenfranchised than us or because we have a surplus of wealth or affluence while our neighbor toils in vain. Throughout the Bible we see Jesus’ insisting that people give up wealth and monetary gain that is over and above what they need to live and specifically tells them to give it to the people that do not have enough to live properly. Not only this, Scripture also insists that they do it with the proper heart condition. Just giving is not good needs to be done willingly (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Additionally, there are other allusions in the Bible to treating everyone fairly and without partiality. I believe this is the another key to understanding why we are told by God to equalize or normalize our relationships not only to God, but also to one another (love God and love you neighbor as yourself). It is because we are to have the mind of Christ that wants us all to be one united in the one will of God.  Because of passages like James 2 we know unquestionably that we are not to be partial to certain believers over others, especially playing favorites to the rich and snubbing the poor. The reason is because we are always best served as Christians to emulate God in all that we do. Also in James 2 we see the principle that God is no respecter of mankind or humans based on outward superficial appearance or economic and social status. By treating your neighbor preferentially, poorly or totally ignoring them when they are in need, you're creating disunity between two of God’s creations that were meant to interact together amiably. Anything that is not of unity is not of the Spirit. If it’s not of the Spirit it can’t possibly be of Christ, if it’s not of Christ it cannot possibly enter the Kingdom, can it? Therefore the behavior can hardly be considered Christian. This type of behavior cannot bring glory to God as Jesus wished to do in His ministry. 

In the end we as Christians will solely be judged on the condition of souls as matched against Scripture and the perfectness of Jesus Christ. The value of a person from God’s view is therefore based on the value of their heart/soul. Things that really matter to God are not driven by things outside the human like wealth, money and status but what is inside and what motivates them. On the eternal scale of things, God see’s man for where they stand in relation to His Son. If God views all men equally based on where they stand with Jesus…then so should we. They are either being saved or they are perishing in their sin. A really good indicator of which is manifest in our actions, particularly how a person treats those in need. If man has no compassion and no desire to help the poor when they know they are struggling or suffering, this couldn’t possibly be of the mind of Christ or driven by the Spirit. This should be one of the first things made manifest in a believers actions as it is/was a huge portion of Jesus’ ministry and subsequently the Apostles and the His immediate disciples. If the Spirit dwells within us it should be one of our primary ministries also. Not necessarily because we are ushering in the Kingdom in full (only Jesus can do that fully and correctly), but rather because we are centering ourselves in God’s will which assures us of our salvation. Sometimes I believe God does this just to give us a convincing sign that makes us confident that we are indeed “working out our salvation” that has been placed within us. It is a salvation that we’ve been given a down-payment on in the form of the Holy Spirit which can be seen through our compassion for the poor and outcasts of society.

Jesus wants whatever is ours to be our brother’s, sister’s or neighbor’s and vice versa. He wants us all to share now in this life so that when we reach the Kingdom we will share with all believers then too. The truth is that whatever is “ours” is really God’s. If we don’t reallocate these things, He will reallocate things when He sees fit anyway. It seems as if benevolence for the downtrodden and compassion for others will be one of those things that won’t get burned up in the fires of judgment and will make it to the New Heavens or the New Earth where Christ will reign forever. This is because it becomes us as we go from here to there. Scripture is replete with statements that convey this principle. It is no better stated and exemplified than it is in John 17 when Jesus prays the “High Priestly Prayer” for the well-being of His disciples and then all believers…even as He stands directly in the shadow of His looming Crucifixion and the Cross that will equalize everyone who believes and will condemn those who do not believe. What is one of the key things Jesus says in this/these prayers that leads me to believe that He wants us all to be equal sharing with one another what we have (Schlabach 86)? We are to be a perfectly balanced Kingdom built one stone upon another and all of us aligned to the Cornerstone...Jesus Christ.

John 17:10-11 ~ “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

We see in the prayer for the Disciples that Jesus is sharing equally within the Godhead (Hendriksen, “John” 355). We should too if for no other reason than we are emulating the Triune Godhead and this very act brings God glory…but there is more. Jesus then goes on to pray for all believers (that means us too) and he prays for unity and again we see that it is because there is unity, impartially in the Godhead and it is based in love. All of this also brings glory to God (Hendriksen, “John” 365).

John 17: 20-23 “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Then we see the linchpin to all of this.

John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Jesus wants all believers with Him, wherever that may be. In the end (eschatologically), it is in glory with Him also and to gaze upon Him in glory forever. Where is that? In the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven which, for all God’s purposes appears to be the same thing(s) (Ridderbos 18). This is a desire that all be saved and end up eternally with Jesus. Can I get an AMEN?

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