Emerging from the Chinese Church

Kingdom of Self

June 8, 2008
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I was reading TallSkinnyKiwi’s recent posts and something hit me pretty hard just now.  But I digress, I have not told the whole story.

Yesterday, I got in an argument with my Fiancee (yes I proposed!) and it started as a harmless question but in the end caused me to reflect on my OWN thinking.  Basically, a waitress at the chinese restaurant, came and gave a bowl of chinese dessert to our table (as it is usually customary) and my Fiancee’s mom asked if the waitress could bring me a different one than originally ordered.  The waitress, sort of didn’t answer and just left the table… but then surprisingly came back with the aforementioned bowl of dessert!

Now, the argument was based on the fact that I didn’t seem appreciative of the extra dessert bowl.  Not that I think lowly of the retail/food industry people, but most of the time, I don’t think twice about whether or not they are trying to do things out of the “goodness of their heart” and I just take it for granted…  I honestly have other things on my mind.  But my Fiancee wouldn’t let go of the fact that I was so unappreciative!

Anyways, back to TSK’s blog, he was interviewing Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation for their new book “Compelled by Love” and I found one section in the interview fascinating:

ANDREW: What do you think is the greatest barrier for people in loving their neighbors?

ED and PHILIP: This is probably a longer answer, but I am feeling some anthropology coming on…

It is the natural inclination of men and women to avoid disequilibrium in their lives. They want to stasis… to get set, be in their own community, in their own tribe of like-minded people. They wish to be unbothered and unmolested by those who are different around them. Thus, people spend their lives building a construct of their own making which meets their own needs among their own people for their own purposes.

In other words, they build a kingdom of self.

Jesus comes in and not only demands and breaks down our kingdom but calls us to build his. So, his agenda must be supreme– not ours. His concern for the outsider is priority over our concern to create comfort and equilibrium in our own lives. The agenda of our lives must be for His glory, not our preferences. We are to live for his kingdom– and it is a kingdom of love.

God calls Himself love. He is love. So, if we call him savior, we must live lives shaped by love. Without a doubt, this becomes difficult because the entire fallen creation teaches us to make every experience about our kingdom of self.

Jesus instead tells us to make it about his agenda. In Mark 12:29-30, Jesus declares the Shema and pronounces what we call the Great Commandment. Because of the utter greatness of God, we are to love him supremely and love others richly.

I’m always struck that the Bible always tells us to love others. But there is a reason. Most of instructions in Bible are given to people doing the opposite of what it demands. In other words, if the Bible says “Quit sleeping around,” it means people are sleeping around. If the Bible says “Love one another as I loved you,” it tells us people are not as loving as they should be. That is why the gospel of Kingdom is so remarkable. It is not just a new leaf, it is a new way of life.

I’m still pondering the argument I had last night… but in light of this quote, I felt I’ve learned a bit of “truth” here.  Aren’t we all looking for the “static-ness”, to be comfortable, living for our own purposes?  Maybe it’s a stretch to love a waitress who was giving you attitude…  Maybe it’s just easier to say “I don’t care”, or “it doesn’t matter”…  Am I building my own kingdom now that I’m supposedly “maturing” through these stages of life?

In a sharing by the youth pastor at my church, he said that chinese people have many admirable qualities, especially when coming to a new country.  They will come and make supermarkets, sell products for less and stay open for longer hours.  Asians are GOOD at doing their jobs… 

…but are we good at loving?


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