“Small is beautiful,” we are told. “Quality, not quantity,” we reply. And while these pithy sayings convey elements of truth, there is a danger that the western church may use them to rationalize the idea of the “faithful remnant” as the primary metaphor for our existence.
As we consider the Kingdom of God, we must be able to hold truth in tension. Now, but not yet. Small, but large. In places Jesus’ teaching does focus on smallness (the mustard seed, a little bit of leaven, the few who pass through the narrow gate). But there is also an emphasis on massiveness (the kingdom is a mountain that fills the whole earth). As we watch evidence of decline of the church in the west as we move into a so-called post-Christian era, we must not allow our thinking to revolve around one side of this paradox. There is an inappropriate focus on smallness that sounds good (“we’re the faithful remnant”) but which is really an expression of defeatism.
So while the church goes through its ups and downs in history, we may be sure that “of the increase of his government ...there will be no end” (Is 9:7). God rules over all people, and his kingdom extends over all of life. Flannery O’Connor wrote, “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” The fact that many in the west cannot stomach the truth of Jesus’ all-embracing reign does not displace him from his throne. The fact that many find his Word distasteful makes it no less binding than does a person’s disapproval of the law of gravity. To resist His Kingdom is to work against the grain of reality. As with the law of gravity, ultimately we cannot break his laws but may be broken by them.
So in this, the fourth chapter of The Treasure in the Field, we will consider the implications of the All-Embracing Kingdom. Here’s what we will see:
- King of All. Jesus’ reign extends to all people and all of life
- The basis of obedience. The rules of the game of life and the role of the umpire
- The blessings of obedience. Embracing the king works; resisting him doesn’t!