Part II in a series on the kingdom of God and the interfaith movement
Roughly two weeks ago, I suggested that a clearer understanding of Jesus’ ministry would help us to understand better this idea of evangelicals doing interfaith work. Today, I continue that discussion with a closer look at the idea of the kingdom of God. It’s been a busy time, so I apologize for the delay in writing, but look for this discussion to pick up in the coming weeks.
I’d like to focus this current exploration of Jesus’ ministry with two questions:
1. What was Jesus preaching? (i.e. what was his message?)
2. How did Jesus preach? (i.e. how did his words and actions communicate that message?)
I began to answer question 1 with enigmatic statements about the “kingdom of God,” referencing Scot McKnight’s One.Life where he suggests that a message that communicates only a directive to accept Jesus (in order to escape hell) and live a pious life is a truncated version of what Jesus was preaching.
But the whole gospel – the gospel of the kingdom of God – is a holistic message of God’s desires for our world. It’s a message of restoration for the individual soul and the whole society. It’s a message that I believe was not only reflected in Jesus’ sermons and stories, but his relationships, his healing of others, and his death and resurrection.
But we’ll get into how the kingdom message was communicated in coming posts. For now, I want to borrow from Kingdom Come, by Allen Wakabayashi, where some key examples from Jesus’ parables discussing the Kingdom of God are outlined.
“In fact, when we consider Jesus’ public teaching we find that the kingdom of God was central to his ministry. Jesus used parables as his primary means of public teaching, and most of them are about the kingdom of God. For instance, he compares the kingdom of God to the following:
- A mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
- Yeast mixed into flour (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)
- Treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44)
- A pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46)
- A net gathering both good and bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50)
- Laborers in a vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
- A banquet to which poor and broken people are invited because the rich and upstanding all turned down the invitation (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24)
- A wedding where the bridegroom arrives right when some foolish bridesmaids have left to but lamp oil (Matthew 25:1-13)
- Money entrusted to servants (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27)”
These parables are one way Jesus communicated the message of the kingdom of God. Each one needs unpacking and, although I won’t promise a dedicated post on each one, I guarantee that my future writing will take a closer look. For now, I invite you to follow the links for each passage to an online Bible resource to investigate these parables on your own.
Before signing off for the day, here’s a reminder of where we’re headed:
The interfaith movement is an invitation to serve others and share stories with people from other faith traditions. Jesus too was a storyteller and a servant. And while the interfaith movement wasn’t founded for spreading the Christian gospel, Evangelical Christians are invited to the table to tell stories and serve others, thus it becomes a space for communicating the gospel in a unique way.
But we must look to Christ as a model for how to do this. How did Jesus communicate the good news? How did he present the message?
The interfaith movement doesn’t seem to be compatible with evangelism that manifests as a crusade to accuse the world of its sinfulness. Sin – a failure to live up to God’s standard – is a part of the message, but if our mission as Christians is only to tell the world what it has done wrong in our eyes, I don’t know that our voices will be heard. Jesus, however, was heard by many (although not everyone… another discussion for later perhaps?).
Let’s continue to look to Jesus’ example and seek an understanding for how evangelicals are called to interfaith work.