I have come across a concept in several different places lately that I wanted to share: the concept of choosing which kingdom we will serve.
Lately I have read Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, Shaping Their Future: Mentoring Students Through Their Formative College Years by Guy Chmieleski, and Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry by David P. Setran (all of which I highly recommend), and each of these books addresses this concept in some way - we choose which kingdom we serve.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus makes the oft-quoted statement, “Seek first the kingdom of God...” Many of us are familiar with this, but we often stop short of considering the full meaning of Jesus’s exhortation - if we are instructed to seek God’s kingdom first, then there must necessarily be other kingdoms available for seeking. But what are these other kingdoms?
The above authors argue (and I agree) that just about anything we strive for in life is a sort of kingdom. There are kingdoms of success, career, academics, popularity, comfort, health, and others, and each of these kingdoms has a prescribed way of living.
Furthermore, each of these kingdoms has its own version of “gospel” - sin, salvation, and hope. For example, the gospel of the kingdom of health might be that “sin” is to be obese, inactive, and lazy; “salvation” is achieved by spending time in the gym, taking health supplements, and remaining active; and the ultimate “hope” is to have a body that is trim, toned, and fit (and perhaps enviable). In the kingdom of career, “sin” looks like having no job, a low-paying job, or a job with no upward mobility; “salvation” is found by working hard, long hours to climb the career ladder and out-work (and surpass) others in your field; with “hope” in being top-dog, making a lot of money, and one day retiring comfortably.
All of us are adherents to many different “kingdoms.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - our desire to be active and to participate in life gets us out of bed and going each day - but when these other kingdoms begin to adversely affect our service in the kingdom of God, things get out of whack. Other kingdoms will never satisfy, and the “hope” they dangle before us is, at best, false, and at worst, dangerous, destructive, or even deadly.
“For physical training is of some value, but
godliness has value for all things, holding
promise for both the present life and the
life to come.” - 1 Timothy 4:8
In God’s kingdom, sin is whatever separates me from God and His
people, salvation is found in Christ alone, and hope is in a new heaven and new earth where we will dwell with God and know the fullness of His glory. When we seek God’s kingdom first, all other “kingdoms” are brought under His dominion, and the work we do, goals we set, and hopes we have are all shaped by our desire to serve God and know Him more deeply. For those who seek the kingdom of God, His fully-realized kingdom, and our eschatological (ultimate) hope, will be the fulfillment of what we have striven for all along - a dwelling place in His presence.
This means whether we are at work, at the gym, among friends and family, or in the comfort of our homes, everything we do can be in service to the kingdom of God. Choose which kingdom you want to belong to, and serve that kingdom faithfully in all that you do (Joshua 24:15, Colossians 3:17).