Living inside the Kingdom
It has been the most trying weeks for my life. My wife, Nikki, had a c-section delivery of our first-born son, Lance Malachi Filio, last October 26, 2007, Thursday at exactly 3:25am. My son, Eli, was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease called Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) and underwent a major corrective surgery last November 8, 2007, Thursday. He is currently recovering well at the Pediatric ICU of the Philippine Heart Center here in Quezon City. Yet in the midst of these apparent troubles, I’m still glad that our Heavenly Father took such pains to direct our paths in the reality of His Kingdom in our hearts and in our lives. Indeed, the Kingdom has come.
I missed several discipleship sessions with my group because of these events. However for this week, I sent them an essay assignment, which I intend to discuss on this article. I would like put in writing my own understanding of the subject matter at hand in the light of the revelations given to me by our Father while experiencing these circumstances.
Calling others to enter the Kingdom
With the help of Dallas Willard’s exposition of Matthew 7: 1-12 in his book “The Divine Conspiracy”, I was able to understand three things that would help a disciple to invite others in the Kingdom of God. The first two are wrong habits that we must avoid and the third is the one thing that we actually do.
1. Stop judging or condemning them for “not living inside the Kingdom” (verses 1-5)
2. Stop pushing the kingdom into them because we know better and we want them to have a good thing. (verse 6)
3. Start asking God to show his Kingdom to them and respectfully request for them to consider it in their lives (verse 7-12)
Honestly, these steps are totally in opposite of what I thought was right and what I’ve been practicing in my ministry. I’ve always believed that if I knew something to be true, I have all the right to push it to people regardless if they I understand it or not. I thought my only obligation is to give them the information and it’s up to them if they would do it or not although I would secretly get angry if they would not do it or I would feel that they ignored my “good” advice. Like what I mentioned during my last Vesper sermon on the Book of James, anger can fuel motivation for ministry and service. (proving you are right and others are wrong!) This wrong habit of condemning others outside the Kingdom of God is actually the “plank” mentioned in verse 5 that Jesus wants us to remove first in order for us to see clearly the brother we are trying to correct. Correcting another people with hate in your heart is what condemning others means. It would take serious practice and discipline in order to do this but having the Kingdom come in our lives, just like what Jesus said, if we learn under his disciple then we can do it because his yoke (teaching) is easy and his burden (ministry) is light.
Aside from anger and condemnation, Jesus mentioned another wrong habit that we need to stop doing in order to invite people in his Kingdom that is pushing others into it. Thinking that our actions are paved with “good” intentions, we often try to persuade people to service and ministry either by guilt (they are not doing what they supposed to do) or by reward (they will be blessed if they do these “good” things). Yet all these “control tactics” that we try to impose on others would only drive them further away from learning the rule of God in their lives. I’ve often seen this done in our church and I believe I have done this on way or the other. Just like in verse 6, we keep on trying to give what is sacred to dogs and pearls to pigs. The pearls are the “good thing” we thought would benefit them and thinking they are beneath us just like dogs and pigs, they should be at least be grateful. But just like what Jesus said, they would only trample it. Listen, Jesus is not saying that we should avoid giving “good things” to people but rather attend to them sensitively and give them things they need and understand. The problem here is not the savage response of the animals but the inappropriateness of what was given to them.
I grew in a church where most of judgments were made based on what it seen from the outside and not on the inside. Thinking I know better, I tried to correct it by telling others “not to judge” each other because of what they see from the outside and I failed. I soon realized that my action was no different from all of us in church. Just like in Matthew 7:1-2, I also measured others based on how we all measure others in church – “based on what can be seen from the outside”.
I also learned that the only basis of goodness of any action can always be measured on the inside. With it, I was able to check my motive for correcting other people and the Father has shown me that my action was purely fueled by anger (proving me right and other people wrong). So I stopped doing it.
However, does this mean we are to refrain from correcting other people? No. Because just like what Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5, my anger and contempt against the people I trying to correct is the “plank” that hinders me from making correct judgments. I should first determine if my action is motivated by any malicious intentions and motives – the plank, before trying to correct a brother. It’s daunting task for most but for us whom the Kingdom has come in now present in our lives, we are blessed because in spite of who we are and what we have, the Father will work with us to be the kind of person who will do good things.
For the second point in Matthew 7:6, Jesus said not to push pearls on pigs just like not pushing the kingdom to others because we believe it to be good. In church, we’ve been trying to reach our Baclaran neighbors by preaching unto them the things we thought they need should value (things of God). When all our efforts have failed, we would brush them off by thinking either they are foolish or maybe God did “not call them to respond to our “good news”. However, the failure here is not that they are ignorant to our message but we are foolish for giving them a message they don’t understand because it’s obviously not lived out in our lives. Plainly, the problem is with us and not with them.
Calling others in the kingdom of God would require sensitivity and respect to others that is actually costly than haphazardly preaching everything we knew to be true in church. It’s harder as we might perceive it because it would actually require listening to them and eventually really caring enough to love them. But for a person inside the kingdom whom the King actually reigns, loving their neighbor is the most natural thing to do to invite others in as well.
Making things happen in the Kingdom
Lastly, when we have decide to put aside condemnation (Matthew 7:15) and pushing of the Kingdom (Matthew 7:6), it would actually make sense, when inviting for others to enter God’s Kingdom, to respectfully ask them in and persistently ask our Father about it.
I observed that in church, Matthew 7:7 has always been expounded with a theme about asking daily provisions from God. Although the simple meaning of the text does exactly means as that, the shortsightedness is not about it’s meaning but rather on it’s depth. You see, in order to fully understand Matthew 7:7, we would need first to lived out the principles of the preceding verses about the Kingdom of God -(1) blessedness (2) doing good from the inside-out (3) showing our good deeds (3) forsaking the approval of others and (4) security from wealth, (5) abolishing condemnation and (6) pushing the kingdom. Just like a ladder with several steps, step (7) will only make sense once we have become a person who naturally does steps (1-6).
Examples: (I made negative statements to help make contrast more obvious)
a. A person who has “not” received the blessedness the Kingdom, who still prefers to earn it instead of freely possess it, would naturally and selfishly ask for their own provisions because if he/she really decided to do it on his/her own, he/she will need all the help he/she can get. And since he/she excluded God from it, he/she is faced with an impossible task. Praying for others would be the farthest thing in his/her mind. Likewise, a person who still thinks that “blessedness” is unattainable, because he/she thinks he/she is undeserving, would naturally be not confident whether he/she makes petition for himself/herself what more when he/she tried to make petition for others.