Angry young men
For me, understanding the principals of the Kingdom of God was a bit like Paul’s Damascus Road experience, I fell off my donkey and a bright light came on. Only I fell off the donkey very slowly and the light came on very gradually, rather like slowly turning up a dimmer switch.
I had grown up with the idea that the Kingdom of God and the church where one and the same thing; now I understand that the Kingdom of God is not the church and the church’s job is to seek the Kingdom, while God worries about the building of the church, though I doubt he worries.
As a member of the church it stands to reason that my job, also, is to seek the Kingdom of God. Not seek church or denomination or even conversions, but to make seeking that kingdom my number one priority.
I had paid lip service to the fact the Christ will build his church, but then I got on with building a local church community, thinking that the job had somehow been delegated to me, although I am not sure when that happened!
I guess that is the mission, and that is what I was asked to write these stories about. I recognize now that the kingdom needs to be everywhere in God’s big wide world; we are to seek it in the church and also outside of the church. I believe if you seek the church you might not find the kingdom, but if you seek the kingdom you will find the church.
Salt purifies and preserves, light eliminates darkness and gives direction. We seek the kingdom by being salt and light influencers in all the pillars that hold up and mould society; the culture, the politics, the business, the education, the media and arts.
An interesting analogy can be seen in the Old Testament scripture, when the kingdom of David was at its height it had influence on all the surrounding nations. It constructed a David fortress in each of those territories although it did not take them over or rule them. I assume the local countries did not want to offend this rather strong neighbouring kingdom, and when they wanted to pass a new law or make a decision although they were free to do so, they felt it was a good idea not to offend this rather strong kingdom and would first check with the local influencers at the David Fort.
Let me tell you two stories that illustrate what I mean by seeking the kingdom. But first let me ask you a question, what does the Kingdom of God look like? The Lord’s Prayer gives us an indication, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ says Jesus, recorded in scripture.
What is God’s kingdom like? From scripture we can deduce that it is a place of justice, righteousness, peace and joy plus many more good things. If we find these things on earth we will have found a bit of the kingdom. When Jesus was on earth, and he put a wrong right he would say, ‘the Kingdom of God is amongst you’, that must mean he had brought the Kingdom of God to the earth.
One evening, when I was running a youth club in the north of England, a crowd of disruptive lads came in and began causing a ruckus. They bullied the young people who were already at the club, then they started throwing chairs around, and smashing anything they could lay their hands on, it was all getting rather dangerous. In the middle of the mayhem I walked in and swiftly became very angry and made it clear that they should leave. They moved out of the club and onto the street, with me in hot pursuit. I singled out their leader, a very tall young man, and marched up to him to give him a piece of my mind. He was head and shoulders taller than me, accompanied by a pack of his feral mates; if they had turned on me I would not have stood a chance, but I was annoyed and perhaps not thinking straight.
I looked him in the eye and berated him about what he and his mates had just done to the club, and then, I have no idea why, I said ‘Are you afraid of me?’ He sneered at me, looked around at his mates for support then announced, ‘No way!’ I then said, ‘Okay, then you won’t be afraid if I pray for you will you?’ He looked at me as if I was mad and said, ‘I ain’t afraid of you or anything you can do, including praying.” I took his hand and without closing my eyes began to pray, ‘Lord Jesus, this young man does not know that you are with me; that you are strong and powerful and that you actually want to do something in his life…..’ I didn’t get any further, I saw that he had tears streaming down his face, and then he snatched his hand from mine and ran away as fast as he could. The rest of the gang looked at me as if to say ‘what have you done to our boss?’ and then they all ran after him. I never saw him or his gang again. We rarely know exactly what to say in these situations, but all we need to know is the Kingdom of God is amongst you. Those of us who know God can find his kingdom in the strangest of places, even in the middle of the street surrounded by a gang. We just need to seek.
Recently, at our office in north London, a young Pakistani Muslim guy came in to speak to one of our staff, he was very angry, so angry that the staff member was afraid and asked one of the other staff members to come and sit in on the meeting for support. Gradually, as he raged on , it emerged that he had been at the airport, on his way to catch a flight to go and visit his sick mother when the police arrested him as a suspected terrorist. For some strange reason, his mates had suggested he should come and see us, telling him that we would be able to help. As the staff listened they became more afraid, for all they knew he could have been a terrorist, and they had no idea how they could help him. In desperation, one of the staff members offered to pray for him, as she didn’t know what else they could do.
At this suggestion he became even angrier and shouted, ‘I have already been to the mosque today and prayed, there is no point in praying, do something else!’ The staff members apologised but said they didn’t know what else to do; the only thing they could offer was prayer, eventually they persuaded him and grudgingly he agreed. Both members of staff shut their eyes tight, not out of reverence but out of fear, and they began to pray, and they prayed and they prayed, they didn’t want to stop because they didn’t want to open their eyes and look at the angry young man. Eventually they did stop and when they opened their eyes they saw a very calm and peaceful young man, who smiled and said ‘I don’t know what you just did but thank you! I have never experienced anything like that before.’ And with that he left. He returned twice more and was very keen to express his thanks, ‘I don’t know how you did it but everything is sorted, I am flying to see my sick mother, thank you, thank you, thank you!’
What we want to do is find that kingdom everywhere on God’s earth. That then is mission. Seeking his kingdom here on earth.
For Ourlab mission stories
Editor A. Brookes