Our Kingdom in Common

Over the past several years, you, my blog readers, have taught me something profound: when we direct our hearts and minds to the word of God, our worldly differences divide us less and our Kingdom joy unites us more. Some of you perch on the political right, while others lodge somewhere left of center, yet when each week we ponder together the grace and truth of Christ, your responses blend in a harmony of gladness to God. These are precious interactions for me, for in Christ your respective generations, perspectives and ethnicities only enhance the brilliance, beauty and wonder of the ever-expanding body that is His church. As Paul wrote, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”1 We could add, in Him there is neither CEO nor intern, nor is there red-state and blue-state, and other divisions come to nothing, for “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”2

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world… My kingdom is from another place.”3 His is a sovereignty in which hope is secure and joy overflows; it is a rule where justice is satisfied and mercy abounds. Where He reigns, His law of love flows in the power of His Spirit and serves in His character of humility. We are citizens of this Kingdom, for “If you belong to Christ, then you are … heirs according to the promise.”4 Still, we await this realm in its fullness and glory, when “God himself will be with [us].”5 Paul tells us, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”6

This is where we are going, and each day is a measured stride toward unfading joy. Then would we let disagreements on matters of a temporal nature divert us from even a moment of enduring effectiveness? Surely our common enemy would delight at the spectacle of division and seize upon the breach on the spiritual battlefield. Instead, may we be like Cornelius and Peter—the Gentile and the Jew, the officer and the fisherman, once-seeking and now-saved—looking beyond petty differences in this world and living productively toward the next. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”7 We run as one.

Father, you have united us in Christ Jesus. Grace us to fix our gaze on you in all circumstances, for your Kingdom comes. May your will be done in and through your people today. Amen.

1 Galatians 3:27, 28 NIV
2 Romans 12:5 NIV
3 John 18:36 NIV
4 Galatians 3:29 NIV
5 Revelation 21:3 NIV
6 Colossians 3:4 NIV
7 Hebrews 12:1, 2 NIV


You’re Welcome!

Have you ever seen the welcome mats that read: “Go away”? I’m guessing most are displayed in the spirit of dry humor, although perhaps an occasional curmudgeon really means what it says. Consider, then, this entryway greeting from a different age: “No foreigner may enter within the balustrade around the sanctuary and the enclosure. Whoever is caught, on himself shall he put blame for the death which will ensue.”1 And where would one find this “unwelcome mat”? In the Jewish temple of Jesus’ day; it warned the “impure” not to step beyond the “court of the Gentiles” and into the inner temple. Rather than being “a light for the Gentiles, that salvation may reach to the ends of the earth,”2 God’s chosen people had instead come to view all others as beneath them and to be distanced. Go away!

How, then, did Jewish believers respond upon hearing the “Gentiles also had received the word of God”?4 Blame and accusation: “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them,”4 they charged Peter. Now, we could stop here and roll our eyes again at the legalists, marginalizing these who had marginalized others, but the apostle pursued unity and understanding. “Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story”5 of Cornelius, his family and friends believing the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus and receiving the gift of eternal life for themselves, and the Holy Spirit indwelling them in great power and joy. Then in relatable terms, Peter concluded, “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”6 “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’”7 Chalk one up for renewed minds.

God’s purpose is to gather and grow one unified people into Christ Jesus. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”8 Then as we together join God in His work, He takes us on an adventure beyond the borders of our natural understanding with a message for all who would enter God’s Kingdom through faith in Christ: You are welcome.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17 NIV).

Father, as you have welcomed me through Christ Jesus, send me now with the gospel of eternal welcome in His name. Amen.

1 Ben Zion, Ilan. “Ancient Temple Mount ‘warning’ stone is ‘closest thing we have to the Temple.’” (accessed February 18, 2020).
2 Isaiah 49:6 NIV
3 Acts 11:1 NIV
4 Acts 11:2
5 Acts 11:4 NIV
6 Acts 11:17 NIV
7 Acts 11:18 NIV
8 1 Corinthians 12:13


Tear Down That Wall

The young couple was engaging in good-natured banter, when one turned to this bystander and asked, “Whose side are you on?” It was a light-hearted moment, and one teeming with opportunity. “There are no ‘sides,’” I replied, “There is only one side, and that is the two of you.” (Whew!)

In Peter’s culture, there were indeed two sides: Jews and everybody else (or “Gentiles,” for short). In their zeal to rise above the ways of the world, God’s chosen nation had come to regard other people of the world as “unclean” and to be avoided. This was never God’s intent, so through two men—one a Gentile and the other a Jew—He would show all that, in Christ, He had “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”1 that had improperly stood between these two people groups. To Cornelius, God sent an angelic herald bearing a humbling equation: devout, plus God-fearing, plus generous2 comes up short of salvation. The solution? “Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter,” the angel commanded the centurion, “He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”3 Then as the centurion’s contingent approached the seaside city, God spoke humility also to Peter, this time through a vision. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,”4 He repeated. God was speaking primarily of people, as Peter would soon confess before his Gentile host, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”5

As God makes us one with Himself through Christ, so also He joins us to each other as His body. To the Gentiles in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made [Jews and Gentiles] one… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross… For through [Christ] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”6 Becoming Christlike includes drawing together in Him, each honoring the other. To this end, Paul calls believers to be “one in spirit and of one mind,”7 adding, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.8 This is oneness. This is relational evidence of spiritual growth. For to grow together in Christ is to grow up into Him who “is all, and is in all.”9

Father, Christ is our peace. Grace us to grow up into Him, becoming one in spirit and of one mind and, in humility and joy, looking to the interests of others. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 Ephesians 2:14 NIV
2 Acts 10:2 NIV
3 Acts 11:13, 14 NIV
4 Acts 10:15 NIV
5 Acts 10:28 NIV
6 Ephesians 2:13-18 NIV
7 Philippians 2:2 NIV
8 Philippians 2:3, 4 NIV
9 Colossians 3:11 NIV