As a Christian, I think that the Kingdom of God has something to do with the interfaith movement.
Okay, let me explain:
I talk to (well, okay… I really hear about much more than I actually talk to) many Christians who aren’t interested in the interfaith movement because of two primary reasons:
1. Fear that participation in the interfaith movement represents a condoning of spiritual practices and/or theological systems that are inconsistent with the Bible
– AND –
2. A lack of appeal, as the interfaith movement doesn’t set an obvious place for a traditional notion of evangelism
Now, reason 1 is easy to address– we simply need more Christians who have actually given the interfaith movement a chance and who understand and practice a model for interfaith cooperation that does not blur the lines between faith traditions and does not require you to state that you’re a-okay with anyone and everyone believing anything and everything they want to believe.
Reason 2, on the other hand, is trickier. And as we’ve been gnawing away at reason 2 for a few months here at FLP, I’ve started to discover something: the Kingdom of God has something to do with the interfaith movement.
First, let me be up-front with what I am not saying. The Bible does not paint a picture of a society in which people of different faith and philosophical traditions work together to make the world a better place and then call it “God’s Dream Society On Earth.” If I were saying this, I would be fabricating a faith tradition that wasn’t Biblical, and I would have created a cheap derivative of Christianity.
So here’s what I am saying: the Bible, more specifically the New Testament–and even more specifically, the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)– do start to paint a picture of what we might call “God’s Dream Society On Earth.” And it’s called the Kingdom of God…but it’s not the interfaith movement.
Yet there’s a connection here: Jesus preached the gospel, which is not to be confused with the gospels, the written accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). “Gospel,” translated from the Greek euangelion , also the source of the English word “evangelism,” means “good news.” And Jesus preached it.
Jesus preached the gospel, which is to say the he preached the good news, and this good news was about something – it was about the Kingdom of God.
So Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom of God.
And now, I have something to argue with my faith tradition: what are WE preaching?
Are we preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God? Or are we preaching something else – an incomplete gospel, or a misguided gospel, or a mistaken gospel?
You see, I think that the failure to see an opportunity to be evangelical (i.e. telling the good news) in the interfaith movement reflects a failure to preach the gospel that Jesus was preaching, as well as a failure to see the gospel that Jesus was preaching.
Scot McKnight says in his book One.Life: “After years of speaking at churches and teaching classes, I’m convinced the average person doesn’t know what Jesus meant when he used the word kingdom.”
And Scot later continues to put it plainly (and in a way we can all understand):
“By kingdom, Jesus means: God’s Dream Society on earth”
A comment on one of our recent posts said “nobody has a monopoly on the proper method of evangelism.” I agree. But I’m also convinced that if the “good news” our evangelism is preaching is only the “accept Christ to avoid hell, and then lead a pious life” track, then we are missing a crucial part of the story. The Kingdom of God is something bigger.
So what is the Kingdom of God? This piece is meant to be a teaser – because I think the only way to really understand the Kingdom of God is to return to the source through which it is communicated – the Bible. So, here’s an invitation: join me in a little journey as I go back through the gospels over the next several weeks for a look at exactly what Jesus’ Kingdom of God message is all about. Until then, I leave you with something to think about:
I believe our job as Christians is to communicate the good news of the Kingdom of God, just as Jesus did. And what were some of the primary techniques Jesus used? Storytelling and service.
These are precisely the tools of the interfaith movement. The interfaith movement invites us to come to the conversation to serve others and to tell stories, and to do that service and tell those stories in context of relationships with people of other faith traditions.
Does anyone see where this is going?