Kingdom Tension and Paradox: Loving the Kingdom more than the World, but Allowing the Kingdom to Transform the World

In two parables set in juxtaposition, Jesus teaches us how to be Kingdom people: loving the Kingdom for the sake of transforming the world.

But this is a tension for us. How can we do this? We are to love God and His kingdom while, at the same time, love God’s creation. In our enjoyment of the creation, we very often forget about the Creator. We have a tendency to take created things and transform them into idols, replacing our love and devotion for God. But we are not supposed to despise the creation—God has deemed it “very good.” It is fallen, but it is not totally evil. We, as Kingdom People, are to be transformation agents in the creation. We are bringing new-creation redemption into the world, used by God to bring some of that “very goodness” back.

So, the Kingdom is more valuable than anything in this world, but we are supposed to be in the world and transform it for God’s glory.

Jesus, in these two parables, gives us a way to negotiate this tension:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matt 13:45-46)

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matt 13:33)

The gospel seen as a pearl is the same gospel seen as yeast. The gospel that is of ultimate value (worthy of giving up everything for) is the same gospel that is meant to act as leaven that mixes throughout the entire world. We are to see the Kingdom as more valuable than anything, but we are not to shun the world for the sake of the gospel. The Kingdom Person is to do both at the same time: Love God more than anything in the world AND also love the world for the sake of the gospel.

“The God who is more important than anything in the world sends us into the world to transform it for him. God’s preeminence means that nothing can be elevated to his level. But his preeminence also means that nothing can be dismissed. Nothing is as valuable as God, but because of God, everything is now valuable.”

(Mike Wittmer, Heaven is a Place on Earth [Zondervan, 2004], p. 100, emphasis added)

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Ted Gossard said...

Thanks. Very true.

The question for me is how do we engage the world. And how do we bring the redemption of Christ to bear on all the world's entities, such as government, entertainment, whatever.

Surely it is always subversive, as in us taking up our cross and dying in all our works. And yet engaged in works of the kingdom that are really down to earth.

I'm still scratching my head on all of this. And want to keep working on it. (Though we ought to get engaged before we think we've got it "right", to be sure.)

The Bose said...

Wow! I didn't realize until just now how closely this relates to the discussion on "The Myth of a Christian Nation"

These two parables that you mention are a great illustration of the fact. Jesus' instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10 come to mind. Also, our charge to not love the world is made quite plain in John 2:15.

You really make it quite clear. Christ commands us to be willing to give up anything and everything in order to serve him more.

Bob Robinson said...

The Bose,

I'm glad you caught that. This has everything to do with our current discussion!

How can we strike the balance of seeing the Kingdom as the "Pearl" with seeing the kingdom as the "Yeast"? It's both, not one or the other!!

Boyd emphasizes the mentality of the pearl and says that the mentality of the yeast is wrong-headed. I think we had better have both.