A Kingdom of Freedom
I have argued that being a disciple of Jesus will cost you everything. Indeed, it will. Anyone who would be a disciple needs to consider whether the kingdom of God is worth the cost. But we also should consider the fact that the reward of the kingdom is everything, too. That’s because the kingdom of God is a kingdom of freedom. It is defined by freedom, and it is experienced by people who are free.
Christians seem to be disliked more than ever before. Sadly, we are not disliked for saving abandoned babies from drowning in the Tiber River; we are disliked because we have allowed the world to define us using their definitions of freedom. We are not for a rich and satisfying sex life as God designed in the marriage covenant; we are against LGBTQ. We are not for orphans and widows in their distress; we are against women’s reproductive rights. We are not for the poor and disadvantaged; we are against those “socialist handouts.” We are not for the kingdom of God; we are against aliens and foreigners. We are on defense in the wrong battle. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood" (Eph 6:12).
My son recently complained to me, “Dad, you always say “no”! “No” this. “No” that! I am never allowed to do anything!” The world believes, much like my son, that freedom and happiness is found in unrestricted hedonism—the endless pursuit of my happiness. The root problem here is that the world is asking the wrong questions. Freedom is not a lack of any restrictions, it is a life filled with joy and purpose. There is no better life than one lived for true freedom serving the true King. We must stop debating unbelievers about sin and start living for a better kingdom. The kingdom of God is about freedom, and the truth fights for itself. We must be seen as those who are free from the world rather than those who are in opposition to it.
I have a friend here in Seoul that introduces himself this way, “Hello, my name is Nathan. I am a recovering legalist.” I can relate to that. I, too, am a recovering legalist. But the only way to “recover” is to be rescued by Christ, and transferred into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col 1:13). We have to be set free, not into slavery to the law nor into indulgence of the flesh. We are free from both, from both slavery to the law and from slavery to sin.
What would it look like for us to live as people who have been freed by the rescue of Christ and true citizens of the liberating kingdom of God? Here’s one possibility.
In Genesis 45, Joseph reunited with his brothers and invited the family to Egypt. He is inviting them to come live with him in the most powerful kingdom on earth. He sends home a message:
Do this: Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your young children and your wives and bring your father here. Do not be concerned about your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.
In other words, “I want to see you! Don’t worry about your stuff; it will only slow you down. I don’t want your stuff—I want you! The very best stuff is already here! Everything you could ever want or need is already here!”
In the next chapter we read this:
They also took their cattle and possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan. Then Jacob and all his children went with him to Egypt. (Gen 46:6)
They brought everything with them! Joseph left as a slave and is now second in command, but they cannot muster the faith to leave their stuff behind.
Aren’t we the same way? When the budget gets tight, our generosity vanishes long before we cancel cable or that Zumba class. But Jesus promised, “whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you” (Jn 15:16). In the kingdom of God, everything we could ever need is provided (Matt 6:33).
So we are free to give it all away. We are free from fear of the future and slavery to your little kingdom of stuff. And if the world could see this kind of freedom, they just might begin to question why their consumption and hoarding leaves them so empty and unsatisfied.
In my next post, I’ll explore another way the kingdom of God sets us free.