Everything about the ministry of Jesus reflects the Kingdom of God. That means everything about the ministry of the church should also reflect the Kingdom of God.
The church is to be an outpost of the Kingdom. That means our churches should look like God’s Kingdom. We should be living out the values of the Kingdom of heaven here on the earth. We should be resolving conflict in a way that reflects the Kingdom; loving our neighbors in a way that reflects the Kingdom; serving our communities in a way that reflects the Kingdom, etc. Above all else, we are to embody the self-giving, sacrificial love that is a hallmark of God’s Kingdom. This is our calling.
But this also means that the church should be a place where the outcast can find the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus always seems to find those people who are on the margins of society and He makes room for them in the Kingdom, makes sure they know that they are cherished by the Father who created them.
How do you think we’re doing when it comes to reaching the people on the margins? Who are the modern day “lepers?” Sometimes I wonder if the church projects such an image of success that people who are on the margins might feel as if they don’t have a place among us. I could be wrong. But I wonder. Jesus said He came to preach good news to the poor. Are we following in His footsteps by preaching good news to the poor in our communities?
There is a racial component to this, too. Jesus is pretty clear that the Jewish Messiah is the Messiah for ALL people. Talking about race is really difficult right now. But if (1) our church is supposed to reflect the Kingdom of God and (2) the Kingdom of God is made up of every tribe and tongue and nation, then (3) the church should be a place of robust racial diversity. So, why do we look so much alike in so many of our churches? I don’t have easy answers here — nor do I have easy criticisms. I understand that matters of race are incredibly complex. But I just wish our churches were more racially diverse — because I believe that would better reflect the diversity of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God breaks down a lot of our categories of “us” and “them” — which is what makes it so radical. Our world thrives on the “us” and “them” of politics and race and economics and “haves” and “have nots” and so on. But in Jesus, the Kingdom of God is available to everyone.
Where do you find yourself today? Do you find yourself on the margins? An outcast? In Jesus, you have a champion, a redeemer, and an advocate. Have you strayed from Him? Could today be the day that you turn back for home and ask Him to receive you once again? I know what He’ll say; He’s said it to me many times. He will receive you with joy if you would simply turn to Him again.
Could today be the day that you give your life to Him in baptism? Could today be the year of Jubilee for you — the moment when you are set free from your bondage to sin, when all your debts are forgiven and you are set free? If you would turn to Him and ask Him for this, I know what His answer will be — He tells us in His Word. He says there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
May today be the year of Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor.