The Principal of First priority
We have talked about meetings and the reason for them. Now let’s now take a look at what I call the ‘principal of first priority’. What is the most important command for people who follow Jesus? We have discussed other commands, for example the need to love one another. But what is the first priority, or primary command? It is that ‘we seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’ and with this command is a reward, God says, I know that you need lots of other things, but seek me first, and everything else will follow on.
I used to think that there was no difference between the Kingdom and the church; I have strongly changed by views on that. Seeking the Kingdom is not the same as seeking church. Someone recently said, “The Kingdom is a dynamic greater than the church. If you pursue the church you won’t find the Kingdom, but if you pursue the Kingdom you will find the church.” (Simon Markham with adaptations from Howard Snyder) God is at work in his world; the Kingdom has come, although not yet in it’s fullness, but it is here, and has broken into this time-space world. We have the ability to pull down handfuls of his Kingdom that can impact and change situations.
I appreciate that is a bold statement, that we can grab a handful of the Kingdom. Let me give you a couple of examples to help you understand what I mean. Sometime ago one of our leadership team came home very tired, we were due to go to a meeting together that evening, but when I looked at him closely I could see he had had a bad day. I asked about his day, had it been tough? He told me it had been terrible, one of his colleagues had been sacked, blamed for not completing a task for an important project. I asked, innocently if he believed that his colleague was at fault. My friend told me ‘No, it was not his fault at all.’ I asked ‘Did you speak up for him?’ He told me ‘You don’t understand, if I had done that, perhaps I would have been blamed and I would have lost my job.’ My response was blunt, ‘You missed out on doing what we are supposed to do as first priority, ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’. My friend was not happy with my response, but I needed to say what I believe to be right, I needed to state where it’s at!
What we know as The Lords Prayer gives us a clue to what the Kingdom looks like. That is helpful, as we need to know what we are seeking. The prayer says ‘your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ From my perspective, heaven, or where the rule of the Kingdom of God is will be a place where there is justice, righteousness, peace, love goodness and wholeness. Therefore, it follows that if we see those things missing on earth, we need to ‘seek the Kingdom’. My friend could have grabbed a handful of Kingdom, he could then have sprinkled justice and righteousness into the meeting, but he was afraid.
Here is another example, for many years my wife and I fostered children. One of the young ladies we fostered had, due to her lies, caused much trouble for social workers, some had even been dismissed. In one of the meetings that regularly take place with Social Services when you are a foster career, I became convinced that the young lady was on the same tack. I strongly believed that she was on a campaign to get the current social worker dismissed, or at the very least, in serious trouble. I was also convinced that what she was saying was untrue.
During the meeting, out of the blue my wife said to the young lady, ‘Does your boyfriend ever do anything wrong’ ‘Yes of course’ she responded quickly. ‘And do you forgive him?’ my wife asked, ‘Of course I do, he’s my boyfriend’. My wife then put the young lady on the spot, ‘Could you, on this occasion, forgive your social worker?’ The girl fidgeted, aware she was cornered, and then looked at the social worker, ‘Yes, I could forgive you.’ At that the meeting concluded, although I noticed a queue of people lining up to ask my wife about this new method of resolving conflict. But it’s not a new method, it just bringing the Kingdom of God into our space time world.
How does this fit into a series of articles on relationships? It troubles me that there are those who think relationship is the be all and end all. Everything hinges on being together, so a lovely shared dinner, in a cosy environment, is the sum total of life. We meet because we meet and that is all there is, that is the point of everything.
I believe relationships are incredibly important, perhaps the most important thing of all. But surely we ought to be together for something? What about mission? Shouldn’t our relationships be about doing something, seeking The Kingdom? Then we would come together to equip each other, and support each other as we seek The Kingdom. I can already hear some of you retorting ‘Oh how task orientated! How terrible! We just need to chill! We need to learn to be. We are who we are not what we do’ Yes and No. Who we are often leads on to what we do, and what we do together. If you can, imagine a couple who meet every night, but never do anything together. Very boring, and I strongly feel the relationship would flounder.
I think we are in this God relationship for a purpose, his purpose. I think all our other relationships also need purpose, his purpose, which ultimately becomes our purpose. And that purpose? To be doers, not just hearers of his words, to be Kingdom seekers in relationship with God and each other.
For Ourlab Blog
20th February 2010
(Editor A. Brookes)