Who’s welcome into the Kingdom? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I post my blog entries up on TheologyWeb.com, and if you’re not a member there and like discussing theology and apologetics, you need to come. I post under the name of ApologiaPhoenix there. Anyway, I had a commenter who did say that he thinks forgiveness is an important theme in the gospels. I had not intended to downplay forgiveness in yesterday’s post. I just emphasized another point because it is my fear that we make the gospels be something they’re not and then miss what they are.
Of course, forgiveness does show up in the gospels and I’d like to tie that in to the idea of Jesus as a king in the gospels. As a king, Jesus is in a position to grant forgiveness to those who He believes have violated His rule. In fact, to come to Jesus and seek forgiveness for sin tells plenty about how Jesus was seen to the people. That He accepted it tells us more about how He saw Himself.
If you have sinned, then in a covenant sense, you have fallen out of favor with God. You are no longer in right relation to Him and owe Him a debt. Biblically, we know that we can never repay a debt that we owe to God. To forgive on anyone’s part is to say that the debt is no longer held against us. We are free to go as if we do not owe anything, which is a quite rich gesture on the part of God. Those who think God judges sin too seriously, such as Hell and the Canaanite conquest, need to realize God is just as serious with forgiving sins and gives that to anyone who sincerely asks.
So Jesus is going through Israel and is He is making a campaign to be the Messiah of Israel. What role does forgiveness play? Let us consider what is being talked about. Jesus is talking about the Kingdom. Something that every kingdom has is citizens. People living in the Roman Empire would know the great value of being a citizen of Rome. What greater value would there be in being a citizen of the Kingdom of God?
Jesus in forgiving sinners and in associating with prostitutes and tax collectors is saying “These are the people I deem worthy of being citizens of the kingdom of God.” Now to be sure, He is not approving their behavior. What He is approving is that they are cognizant of their need for Him and for the forgiveness of God. It is their turning to recognize Him as king that makes them allowed to be in the Kingdom. There is no place in the Kingdom for those who do not accept the King.
Fortunately, this is a thing of the past. As we are today, we don’t have anybody who thinks that certain people ought not to be forgiven and that Jesus just would not associate with some people. We are past all of this silly class distinction and it never enters the church.
I sure hope you don’t buy that.
I am a strong Republican, but I am sure many of my fellow Republicans would not like to think about liberals and Democrats inheriting the Kingdom of God, but there will be such people there provided they have accepted Christ as King. Many Democrats need to realize as well that we evil conservatives and Republicans will be in the Kingdom as well, but also on only the same standard. Is Christ king?
Some people from a high-church climate need to realize that those people who don’t dress as nicely will also be a part of the Kingdom. Meanwhile, those poor who think the high-class types are just snobs also need to realize that some of them will be in the Kingdom as well. The requirement again is the same.
Think about how many communities are looked down on by some. Those goth kids down at the mall? If they have Christ as King, they will be in the Kingdom. That teenager who listens to that loud music? If Christ is King, he will be in the Kingdom. Those people at church that talk your ear off or the ones that seem quite silent? If Christ is King, they will be in the Kingdom.
People of every race, tribe, and language will be in the Kingdom. If you have a problem with a certain trace, tribe, or language, it’s best to deal with it now, because chances are you’ll spend eternity with someone from that group.
And let’s consider two of the hardest people to love that will be in the Kingdom eternally if this is correct.
First is your neighbor. We all know that family can be some of the toughest people to love and so can close friends, but they will be in the Kingdom as well. Your spouse might have some little idiosyncracies that drive you crazy. (I can assure you I have so many that Allie probably wants to go berserk at times. She thinks she’s married to Sheldon Cooper. I’m sorry. “Dr. Sheldon Cooper.”) Love them into Christlikeness, but realize you spend eternity with them, so learn to love them now.
We live next door to my parents in my grandmother’s old house. It can be a mixed blessing. Overall, it’s good as they can help us out with so many things that we can use the help on. Of course, we have to spend some time making boundaries that are proper. There are times we do things to them they don’t understand and frustrate them. There are times they do the same to us. We have to learn to love though. We’re in the Kingdom forever.
And the last person so hard to love is yourself. It is important for us to realize that we have been chosen for the Kingdom. It is not something about being worthy. In fact, the admittance into the Kingdom is based upon realizing you are not worthy. Our whole problem today is we make getting into the Kingdom to be something about worthy, as if one earns a position at the table.
In the OT, David wanted to show honor to Jonathan’s family and so he sought out a relative of Saul’s. He found Mephibosheth, a young man who was crippled in both feet. The account is found in 2 Samuel 9 and states a number of times that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table. It wants us to make sure we notice this. This person with nothing to offer was given the honor of eating at the table of the King. It was not about worth. It was about grace, that is, the favor of the King, and if it was earned, it would not be grace.
Unfortunately, in the time of Jesus, several did not think these types should be in the Kingdom. It eventually led to the crucifixion, yet as I said yesterday, the Father overruled that with the resurrection of the Son of God.
Apparently, He thinks such people should be in the Kingdom.
And for that, we should be living lives of gratitude devoted to the service of the one who has granted us to be citizens of the Kingdom. We are but servants doing what we have been told.