Endurance

art-03-runnerNo matter how you voted in last week’s presidential election, and regardless of why you voted that way, our work as the church remains the same. The details of what we need to be doing have changed, and the challenges to our ministry have increased, but what we aim to do has not changed. It has only become more urgent.

We may have voted for different candidates and envision different ways to reach our goal, but our aim is the same. Christian, Jew, Muslim, or something else; black, brown, white, or some other color; native-born or immigrant, documented or undocumented; Republican, Democrat, or Independent; male, female, or LGBTQ – we want to live well. That’s our aim as the church, continuing Jesus’ ministry so that people may have more and better life than we ever dreamed of (John 10:10 The Message).

Christian discipleship is always personal, but it is never private. It has profound social implications. And while the biblical vision of God’s reign on earth is not yet fulfilled, neither is it reserved for the future. The purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to announce that God’s reign had become present in a way that called for a different way of living today (Mark 1:14-15), and he warned that unless we live in that way today, we never will (Luke 14:15-24).

Isaiah writes of it, “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days or an old person who does not live out a lifetime” (Isa. 65:20). In God’s kingdom, the infant mortality rate drops to zero, so prenatal care, universal health insurance, and reining in the outrageous cost of medical care are kingdom issues, and Christian disciples need to be involved them. In God’s kingdom, senior adults live long, productive, healthy lives, so Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are kingdom issues, and disciples need to be involved in them.

Isaiah says that in God’s kingdom, people “shall build houses and inhabit them” (v. 21a). In God’s kingdom, every person will have a decent, affordable house, so affordable housing and fair mortgage rates are kingdom issues that we need to be involved in. “They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (v. 21b). In God’s kingdom, food is plentiful, so providing healthy, accessible, affordable food in a sustainable agricultural economy is a kingdom issue, and disciples need to be involved in it.

“They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat” (v. 22). The equitable distribution of wealth is a kingdom issue, so disciples need to be concerned about the growing accumulation of wealth by a few at the expense of the many, and we need to be involved in correcting that.

God’s people “shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in van” (v. 22b-23a). In God’s kingdom, people are fairly compensated for their work, so issues like guaranteed income, an liveable minimum wage, adequate employee benefits including child care, and employee shares in the ownership of corporations are issues disciples need to be involved in.

In God’s reign on earth, people “shall not bear children for calamity” (v. 23a). Children thrive in God’s kingdom, so providing adequate neonatal care, child nutrition, and early childhood education programs like Head Start are issues where disciples need to be involved.

Finally, Isaiah envisions a reign of God where “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,” where “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” (v. 25). Violence and warfare are no longer part of our lives in God’s reign on earth, so peacemaking and not the threat of war, concern for the common welfare of all people and not the competition for wealth and resources, the greatness of all peoples of the earth and not the greatness of one nation – these are the issues Christian disciples need to serve.

Because these things matter to God, they matter to us Christians. Because God’s reign on earth is growing toward the fulfillment of God’s promise in Isaiah, we in the church – individuals, congregations, denominations, the entire worldwide church – need to be working toward those things. We need to bear witness to God’s vision of the truly peaceable kingdom personally with our neighbors and in the public arena.

We are not called to impose our beliefs on others; we are called to live our faith publicly and to work with our neighbors – all of them – to make God’s reign a reality “on earth as it is in heaven.” The work ahead of us will be long and hard, and the challenges will be great, especially in today’s political climate. But Jesus told us this “will give us an opportunity to testify” (Luke 21:13) to the presence of more and better life than we ever dreamed of. We may be hated by both the Trump and the Clinton camps because of what we do, but by our endurance we will gain our souls (Luke 21:17, 19). ▪

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