In the previous post, we learned that, just as the crowds proclaimed on the first Sunday when they shouted, “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David,” Jesus brings the Kingdom of God in our lives. But God’s Kingdom is not just within people, it is also within cultures and societies. Yes, God wants to change individual people, but he also wants to change societies. When I think about this, I think, “What would happen if a lot of people became Christians?” That would certainly change societies, cultures and the world, wouldn’t it? If so, shouldn’t we focus on just getting people saved?
There is no doubt that Christians should seek to make disciples, just as Jesus demonstrated for us and called us to (Matthew 28:18-20). Every single one of us should see ourselves as disciplemakers for Jesus. The goal of inviting people to enter into apprenticeship with Jesus, to become his disciples, is that more people would experience the abundant life he came to give us. That means, as we saw in the previous post, that those individuals lives would experience transformational change.
This very change has happened many times. In fact, there have been revivals in the past where so many people in a local community began following Jesus that jails emptied out, bars shut down, and the police didn’t have much to do. But that is exceedingly rare. Instead, the advancement of the Kingdom of God involves both individual salvation and societal transformation by means of social action.
For one of my doctoral courses I did research in my denomination’s archives, located at its headquarters in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. My denomination, the Evangelical Congregational Church, for many years published a weekly newspaper, the United Evangelical. Every issue is stored in the archives. I read the issues published during the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s, seeking to learn how the EC Church interacted with or commented on the Civil Rights Movement. I was afraid there was going to be nothing.
I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few articles, editorials and reports from denominational committees. These various articles commented on the events happening in our nation, as cases went before the Supreme Court, as schools were desegregated and as the nation reacted. The general theme of all those articles and committee reports was what we might call the “individual salvation solution.” That approach says, “Just get people saved and the culture will change, so therefore we need to double our emphasis on evangelism.”
The problem is that most of the people who were trying to keep institutions segregated claimed that they were Christian. What needed to change, therefore, were laws and structures in society. In places where segregation was legal, it needed to become illegal. In places where there was segregation, society, culture and the church needed to be desegregated. That meant advocating through means of social action. It meant people risking their lives through non-violent action. Many died. Not just the famous ones like Martin Luther King Jr, but others as well. They were doing Kingdom work.
In God’s Kingdom there is no segregation, as we read in Galatians 3, “in Christ, there is neither Jew, nor Greek…but all are one in Christ.” Therefore, wherever we find segregation, we call it what it is, an injustice. God’s heart is for justice. In his Kingdom justice rules and reigns. So we work to bring justice anywhere we find injustice. Is there injustice in our community? We should be actively looking for it, seeking to eradicate it, and bring justice. We love our neighbor as we love ourselves, so all may know him, so all may know his love, and flourish in his Kingdom.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that original Palm Sunday, he was willingly receiving the coronation that was true. It didn’t matter that the people got one part of it wrong. He was not going to be a political or military king. Instead, he was physically and symbolically declaring to all that he was the Messiah, the deliverer, the savior, the King who had come into the world, ushering in the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom. Ever since, you and I, giving our allegiance to the one true King make it our life’s mission to advance his Kingdom wherever we live, wherever we go. You and I are ambassadors of the king, ambassadors of reconciliation, Paul wrote. Helping people become reconciled to the King, and helping them be reconciled to one another.
Palm Sunday, then, is a reminder to us of what is real and important. Our allegiance to King Jesus. Does your life show that you are shouting “Hosanna!” to the King? How and where can we shout Hosanna in a more clear way in our lives and in our communities? What areas of our lives need more connection to the Spirit, more awareness of the king that King Jesus came to be?