Kingdom Truth by Steve Crosby

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Kingdom Truth

Some very interesting relational dynamics have developed for me over the last fifteen to twenty years because of my views on Kingdom Truth.

I know people in traditional (for lack of a better term) church environments who barely speak to me anymore. I thought of them as my friends. My crime in their eyes? I associate with “de-churched” individuals in the emergent/organic/house-church movement who have left their churches. I don’t categorize those “de-churched” as wounded and reactionary people who have a problem “submitting to authority.”

I also know individuals in the emergent/organic/ house church movement, who I thought were my friends, who will barely speak to me. My offense? I continue to relate to people and leaders in traditional church structures. I don’t just write them off as members of the alleged whore of Babylon: organized Christianity. These folks think I’m a compromiser for continuing to relate and serve those in traditional expressions.

~ O happy day ~

My personal experience is just one example of a common church phenomenon: polarity. Building authentic kingdom relationships is not for the faint of heart, the thin-skinned, the psychologically fragile, or the easily offended.

Kingdom Polarity

Polarity can be either negative or positive (I couldn’t resist that one). If polarity means standing on opposite banks of the River of Life, lobbing truth bombs at each other, that’s not such a good thing. The usual result of an atmosphere where truth-bombs are flying is a company of people standing on the perimeter of a hole, staring into it. Nothing is there.

However, if polarity represents the mystery of kingdom truth in life, values, virtues, emphases, priorities and perspectives that’s a good thing. We need to understand that kingdom life and unity is found in the presence of our polarities, not in their removal or homogenization

There’s no such thing as a North-North magnet. A magnet has North and South poles. It’s only useful as long as the polar opposites remain. A North-North magnet is just a hunk of metal. Without polarity, a magnet loses its power and purpose. It attracts nothing. Without polarity, the Church loses its power and purpose and will attract nothing.

Imagine two people rowing a canoe. If both try to crowd into the same end of the canoe, it will sink. The safe functioning of the canoe, requires they be at opposite ends. Life depends on each maintaining their position. The challenge is to paddle in the same direction and in sync. It’s no small challenge.

The Kingdom Spectrum

Kingdom Truth is absolute. However, our apprehension and application of it is spectral, always a work in progress, reflecting our moment in time and hopefully arcing toward greater apprehension of Christ and Him crucified. The totality of Truth is in the totality of the Body, not in any singular individual or ministry. Paul said we have the mind of Christ (3rd. pers. pl.) not I, or the pastor or the super-star TV preacher.

We need each other, even in our differences. I have convictions on many topics that I will unapologetically share with passion from my place in the spectrum. Each of us can do no less. Yet I understand I don’t represent the whole forest and not all the trees in the forest look just like me. The kingdom truth spectrum means that at any given moment, individuals can be at various stages of life-growth in relationship to the Lord, one another, and different aspects of His kingdom truth.

This is especially true of new or emerging ideas regarding methodologies and emphases. Arriving at Kingdom truth concerning our practices or what “ought to be” is a process of distillation. Distillation can take time and is accompanied by unpleasant aromas! The smell of relationship building while establishing truth can be like a men’s locker room after an overtime football game! The aroma of the brethren “working it out” is most often not pleasant, but the fruit of victory is worth it. Sweat is sweet if you’re invested in the game (Mt. 18:15-35).

All of us, without exception, process the kingdom of God through the lens of the gifts we have received, our collective experiences we bring to the moment, the measure of the character of Christ that has been developed in us, and where we “are” along the way. None of us is completely objective. We perceive God and His kingdom truth from the seat we may currently hold in the spectrum of His life, and it’s fine to do so.

When someone discovers something new or life-giving from the Scriptures or in their relationship with Christ, it’s human nature to be excited about it and to assume that the excitement should be the norm for everyone. It’s also normal to think one’s present place on the spectrum is “the greatest” and to wish everyone else was or should be, at the same place. However, expecting everyone to be at the same place with the same values is like piling everyone into the same end of a canoe! Not helpful!

Someone in the opposite end of the canoe is not necessarily “wrong.” They’re just currently postured differently in the spectrum of kingdom life. The question isn’t who is right and who is wrong, but are we abiding in Life, and bringing it/Him to those around us, wherever we may be on the spectrum? What is needed at the moment to manifest the life of Christ? That’s what is “right.”

We were not converted because we were right in our thoughts and behaviors, but because He gave His life for us and introduced us to Himself while we were yet dead in our sin. We so easily forget this and relationally suffer for it.

The Emergent and the Ultimate

Living things never appear fully developed. They emerge and grow. Those of us wired toward ultimate things (myself, and others like me) can tend to never be satisfied with what is. We should and must pursue ultimate things, but in that pursuit, we must not step all over what is emergent. If I am out walking in the yard everyday inspecting the grass I just planted, I will never have a lawn. I will be treading all over the present thing, looking for the hoped for thing, and in the process killing the hoped for thing!

There will always be tension between what is and what could be. That’s the kingdom polarity found in kingdom truth. Prophetic people (over generalized) tend to focus on what could be at the expense of what is: “Things are terrible, God says FIX IT!” Pastoral people (over generalized) tend to focus on what is at the expense of what could be: “Things are wonderful, God says: LEAVE IT ALONE.” Both are true and neither is true.

The tension between the actual and the ideal will be with us until the end of the age. The contented/actual folks need to put a little “git along” in their step. The discontented/ideal folks need to take a deep breath and be accepting. The Holy Spirit is an expert at supervising this adjusting process. He sees to it that Calvary is appropriated and applied to folks on both poles of the spectrum, and every resting place in between.

 

Doves, Rams, and Bulls

I was recently reminded of some details of the Old Covenant offerings that could have application to this topic. Old Covenant typology is not exactly a favorite endeavor of mine, so for me, this is a unique meditation for me.

In the Levitical system there were different kinds of burnt offerings. Short version: turtledoves (doves), rams, and bullocks (bulls). Some Levitical offerings were strictly prescribed. Others were flexible. God’s economy included allowance for people’s capabilities–what they could offer. There was not a right offering, and a wrong offering, per se. A turtledove was not inferior in quality or spirituality to a bullock.

If in a Covenant based on inferior promises this was the case, how much more so should an accepting ethos of accommodation guide our interactions with one another in a greater covenant based on greater promises?

It’s illegitimate for those of us who may have bullock capacity, or who might be at the bullock edge of the spectrum on a developing topic or issue, to demand that folks who may be at the dove stage of things “produce” something bigger or more “perfect” to our liking. They don’t have to, and God doesn’t expect it. Their dove is just as acceptable as our bullock. The issue is the realm of life or death, not right or wrong. A dove offering isn’t “wrong.” It’s just a measure of life for that person, at that moment in their understanding of kingdom truth.

The dove to bullock spectrum applies at multiple levels: personal development, relationships, Body life, and emerging issues. We need to give each other space to be in different places of development and journey from dove to bullock. If someone else sees, or lives at a dove place on the spectrum, who am I to say they should be different? I was them–once upon a time in some areas, and in others areas I still am! God does not require of us what we have not been given to see. We should require of each other no less

Love and Service

If I claim to be a mature, enlightened, or overcoming believer my responsibility is not to try to coerce others into my end of the kingdom canoe to enlighten them with my superior biblical knowledge. My calling in Christ is to take on the burden of what I perceive to be others’ weaknesses, deficiencies, and shortcomings. They might not even be weaknesses or deficiencies, but merely a different resting place of life along the spectrum.

If we claim to be spiritually mature, if we profess to have “cutting-edge” insight, our kingdom mandate is not to illumine others with our profundities, but to stand as a vessel of grace and life in the midst of others’ death and weakness–for their sake. Their realm does not affect me. I “absorb” death (in whatever form: minor to major, spiritual to natural) for their sake. I become the fertilizer for their progress out of death. (Col.1:24) Paul said it like this to a people for whom he gave his life who were rejecting him:

  • Death works in me, but life in you. (2Cor. 4:10-12)
  • I will therefore, most gladly, spend and be spent for you, though I am loved the less for it. (2Cor.12:15)

Summary

Someone else’s place on the spectrum, is not a limitation on my ability to love and serve them. I do not have to change their polarity or get them into my end of the canoe for me to love and serve them, unless they prohibit me from serving them.

If the castle of their soul is locked down, drawbridge raised, battlements armed, I will be unable to serve them. Even my sincere approach will likely be misinterpreted as a threat–an attempt to take over their castle, or as trying to get them into my end of the canoe.

Even so, when service is not possible, love remains. I can still wait outside their castle (maintain some degree of relationship) until the Holy Spirit enables them to drop their drawbridge and invite me into their heart. My perception of their “status” ought not limit how His love manifests through me. Nothing and no one can limit the river of God’s love in me. Only I can do that.

Love and service are effective all the time. Love never fails.