Christmas has come and passed. Music stations that were playing Christmas themed music have returned to regular programming. Festive memorabilia is now 80% off of the original price, and lofty resolutions regarding behavior modifications are trending. For the most part, life rhythms that were interrupted by the holiday season are progressing back to normal. In the coming days, decorations will be boxed up and placed into storage, as an eerie resemblance of what our culture wants to do with Christianity.
The Tension in Our Social Rhythms
In American culture, the Christian faith is something to be marginalized. At best, it’s to be practiced in private. Yet, it is allowed to come out of hiding twice a year, on Christmas and Easter, to compete with the Goliath of commercialism and his five brothers; autonomy, consumerism, idolatry, paganism, and selfishness.
For the global church, we recognize Jesus’ first arrival or Advent is not be reduced to a one-day celebration on December 25th. We understand our Savior volunteered to incarnate, to be born of a woman under the law, so sinners could be adopted into the family of God (Galatians 4:4-5). This we are called to celebrate daily. We couple this reality with the fact we should celebrate the resurrection of our Lord for more than just one Sunday each spring.
I often compare it to the Fourth of July. As Americans, we may pop fireworks, eat barbecue, and drape ourselves in red, white, and blue for a few days in July, but daily we walk in the freedom and liberties our citizenship grants us. In a better way, followers of Jesus, who are citizens of the Kingdom of God, daily move through life indwelt by the Holy Spirit as those who are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6-8). All of this because our Lord rose from the grave and His resurrection is our one true Independence Day.
The Task of Our Social Response
The question at hand is, how then should we, citizens of the Kingdom of God, respond to the social rhythms of our culture?
One answer is to live out the Kingdom ethics given by our King. Every kingdom citizen alive today walks in the tension between our King’s two advents. His first advent was a successful mission trip to seek and save the lost. His second advent will be a glorious return the leads to the full restoration of all things! Until then, we’re called to live like He’s coming back. We do this fighting to live morally pure while meeting the needs of the afflicted around us (James 1:27 and 1 John 3:3).
This lifestyle will produce a level of flourishing that causes onlookers to inquire about the source of our blessing. This provides us with opportunities to direct their attention away from idols and look to the only True and Living God for salvation through Jesus. The flourishing I have in mind is found in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). The beatitudes are a snapshot of what life in the Kingdom looks like for the citizens of God’s kingdom.
Jesus repeats the word “blessed”. This word doesn’t simply mean happiness. Rather, it’s a robust picture of overflowing joy because kingdom citizens know their King and enjoy the benefits, He gives for obeying His commands. The natural question is, what are the commands to be obeyed in order to become blessed? Well, Jesus answers this directly in the beatitudes by saying blessed are those who:
- Are poor in spirit – Basically, a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy. To be poor in spirit is to realize we cannot pay off or chip away at the insurmountable debt our sinful lifestyle has racked up. This drives us to humbly approach God, asking for our debt to be discharged. This option is possible because of Jesus’ first advent!
- Mourn – Grieving deeply over the consequences of sin in our lives.
- Are meek – Treating others with gentleness.
- Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – A constant pursuit of justice, equity, and moral purity.
- Are merciful – Expressing compassion liberally and forgiving others freely.
- Are pure in heart – Desiring purity in the core of our being.
- Practice peacemaking – Mediating in order to bring forth harmony in the midst of conflict.
- Are persecuted – Enduring targeted attacks because of a lifestyle that practices the kingdom ethics found in God’s Word.
Jesus shares what flourishing takes places when the beatitudes are fleshed out. The poor in spirit are given citizenship in God’s kingdom. The mourning are guaranteed to be comforted. The meek will have not just citizenship but ownership in God’s kingdom. Those hungry and thirsty for righteousness will see the end of oppression. The merciful will receive mercy. The pure in heart will intimately know God. The peacemakers will be secure in the family of God and the persecuted will rejoice knowing they share in the sufferings of their Savior as well as His resurrection (Philippians 3:10).
The good news of the kingdom is too great to only be talked about two days a year. Every day followers of Jesus should be empowered to work to advance God’s kingdom. The local church is the place where sinners should see the Kingdom unveiled. Our King has come, and the kingdom is already but not yet. Our King is coming, and until He does, may we represent Him well by flourishing because we’re obedient to His commands. May our flourishing serve as on-ramps for conversations that provide onlookers with an invitation to place their faith in our King and become a citizen in His kingdom.