The U.N. General Assembly and the Kingdom of God

Last Tuesday, President Barak Obama – in reference to an anti-Islamic video produced in the United States – told the United Nations General Assembly:

… the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that.

He recognizes that “not all countries … share this particular understanding …”? Now there’s an understatement. He could have added that not everyone in America shares it either. It’s not the understatement that struck me though. It’s how much the President’s comment reminds me of something Paul said a couple thousand years ago.

 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14.)

Parallel Realms

I am a citizen of the United States by birth, and belong to the kingdom of God by rebirth. A lot of the things I take for granted here in the States not only don’t exist abroad, they’re not even valued. A lot of the blessings I receive in God’s kingdom are likewise not valued by those outside the kingdom. The reasons are similar in some ways.

People come to my courthouse for jury duty all the time, and occasionally I am privileged to speak to them about jury service. One thing I point out is that not many countries have a jury system, and that the governments in those other countries never call on regular folks to make a judicial decision. Yet here we do that, twelve people making the decision that becomes an enforceable order of the judicial branch.

Then I point out that in some countries the people not only don’t get to do this but they cannot even conceive of it. Many people live in countries where the government doesn’t ask the people what it should do; the government tells the people what they have to do. If we tried to explain the jury system to a person on the street in one of those places, some of them wouldn’t even be able to wrap their minds around it. Here in the States, though, we get the basic concept even if we’ve never been on jury duty; we get it because this is where we live.

I think that’s how it is with the kingdom of God. We get the basic concept because we have the Spirit, who lives in us. Those outside the kingdom don’t get it, because they don’t have the Spirit. To paraphrase:

Now I know that not all people in this world share this particular understanding of what it means to belong to God. I recognize that.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t talk about it with those people. Like the President discussing the value of protecting free speech even though his listeners may not agree with it, we have something to say to those who do not yet belong to God even if they won’t get the truth of what we say.

Because it’s not up to us to make them understand. It’s up to us to tell them the good news:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15.)

***

How do the people in your life respond to the fact that you belong to the kingdom of God?

What impact does your position in God’s kingdom have on the people around you?

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11 Responses to The U.N. General Assembly and the Kingdom of God

  1. “…it’s not up to us to make them understand.” Good reminder!!!
    Great post. Love the parallel.

  2. What impact does it have? Well, I think some avoid me. I believe most are aware I am a Christian — when I mention God even in the slightest context their radars go up really quick if they don’t want to hear about Him. A couple families no longer let their kids play at our house (which is so weird — they always had so much fun and loved the brownies and cookies).

  3. housewifetheologian says:

    It’s not our job to make them understand the kingdom, but to witness to Christ’s rule. The tension is that we are citizens of two kingdoms right now, the civil/secular kingdom of this world, and the spiritual/redemptive one inaugurated in Christ. One is temporary and fading, ruled by justice; the other is eternal, ruled by grace.
    One of Derek Webb’s songs puts it well, “There will never be a savior on Capitol Hill.”
    The question of impact is important, because as you imply, we are not the gospel. As salt and light, we point to the good news outside of ourselves. That is pretty liberating.

    • Tim says:

      It is liberating, Aimee, good insight. I point to Christ because he’s good, not because I have anything to offer in myself. Me, I’m just a shlub. In him, though, we find redemption from our shlubitude.

  4. Well said, Tim.
    In response to your two bottom questions: 1. A lot of people think that with me being in the kingdom of God I am either not very open minded (these people don’t know me too well) or they believe that I am a better representation of the Kingdom of God than others they have known who claim to be Christians but don’t really appear different from the rest of the people. 2. I like to help people or be there for those in need, and I think the end of number one also has a lot to do with this answer. I am not a good Christian because no one is good, but I try to live my life for Christ, and I think people recognize Him within me.

  5. It’s so important for me to listen to World News (BBC in particular – I listen to it to the gym early in the AM) because I NEED to remind myself how amazing it is to live where we live. When I hear about the way women are still treated in other countries, I am baffled. Saddened. And I don’t want to lose perspective of the immense responsibility I have being an American. I have a responsibility to do good with what I’ve been given, not take it for granted and live in my bubble.

    I remember a conversation I had with a good friend in 2003 or 2004. I am often very heartbroken that some of my closest friends do not know the Lord, and I wonder, “Why ME, God? Why did you choose ME? What did I do to deserve knowing who you are?” I was explaining this sentiment to my friend, and he said, “It’s not your job to ask, Why? You have been given a gift and have a responsibility to do something with it.” That really stuck with me throughout the years, even though I squandered the gift (knowingly) for another four years before God said enough was enough and made me come to my senses.

    • Tim says:

      You have a wise friend there, Rachel. I’d add that it is not only our responsibility, but our privilege to do something with all God has given us.

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