‘The Kingdom Is Always But Coming’

This has been a remarkably encouraging conversation. I thank Rev. Hybels for his generosity of spirit and enlightening responses.
My final question for Rev. Hybels has to do with how sin and redemption function within our social lives. Sin is generally understood on an individual level–it can be described as our own will and life being in discord with God’s will for our lives. Thus Christians spend much of our time raising our awareness of sin, repenting of it, experiencing the forgiveness that is transmitted through Jesus Christ, accepting God’s will for our lives, and hopefully trying to transform the way we live to reflect God’s will.
The social gospel has that vision on the macro level. It means that when we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, we don’t just mean in our individual lives but also within our society and in the world at large. That means actively identifying sin in the way the world is functioning, dedicating ourselves to corporately repenting of that sin, and working to transform the world into accordance with God’s will.
This gets tricky because everyone has an idea of what God’s will is for the world. For some Christians, this means trying to convince everyone to believe in what they believe, or engaging in activism to legislate private morality.


These concerns seem more debatable and less crucial to the Christian life than transforming the reality of extreme misery experienced day in and day out by people on account of poverty, sickness and war. My great-grandfather Walter Rauschenbusch tried to do God’s will and help usher in the radical new society–the the kingdom of God–that Jesus preached about in the Beatitudes.
Rauschenbusch’s desire to redeem this earth caused many to label him a naïve optimist who did not understand the nature of sin and who trusted too much in the ability of humankind to overcome it. In his book Christianity and the Social Crisis, he had a response for those who seemed immobilized by the reality of sin: “It is true that any regeneration of society can come only through the act of God and the presence of Christ; but God is now acting, and Christ is now here. To assert that means not less faith, but more. It is true that any effort at social regeneration is dogged by perpetual relapse and doomed forever to fall short of its aim. But the same is true of our personal efforts to live a Christian life; it is true also of every local church, and of the history of the Church at large. Whatever argument would demand the postponement of social regeneration to a future era will equally demand the postponement of personal holiness to a future life.”
Trying to improve society as a reflection of our Christian faith is analogous to trying to improve ourselves in response to knowledge of God’s will for our lives. We know that we will sin, we know that we will fall short, but that is not an excuse not to try. Being a Christian is a process of trying to bring God’s will more fully into our lives, knowing that it is a lifelong task. Maya Angelou had a great take on this when she said: “I’m always amazed when somebody says, I’m a Christian. I think, already? You’ve got it already?”
Rauschenbusch himself said the “kingdom is always but coming.” May we continue to accept and work for the personal and social Gospel.

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posted September 27, 2007 at 12:55 am

Although Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us that was not permission to ignore them. Salvation is our Lord’s; we should bring both the gospel and food to all people. A disgrace is that in Vancouver, homeless people can be seen sleeping in the doorways of churches. A church should never be locked even if they don’t have “sleeping quarters”; there is a calling for people to be caretakers (if the priests cannot do so themselves) of churches so that they’re always open and available to the lost and homeless.

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Patricia Wootan

posted September 27, 2007 at 9:34 am

I have a bumper sticker which says when the poor are fed, peace follows. I believe that people need a belief system it helps them endure but I can not see children with large bellies full of worms-starving without knowing what I must do. My faith helps me make the decision to care for their physical needs. To give love and to feed the needy comes before converting them. I am thinking of the Sermon on the Mount.

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Sr Andrea Cohen

posted October 20, 2007 at 8:53 pm

The discussion about what we’re responsible for as Christians takes me back to my childhood. I grew up from a young age feeling guilty – seeing the huge problems in the world and feeling like I was supposed to solve them. I felt the weight on the world – because I looked around and didn’t see others doing much to change things. The closer I feel to God – the more I understand that it’s God that changes things – and openness to the experience God’s love is the biggest gift to the world.
I saw a documentary on Mother Teresa – and she said that no place in the world did she see such poverty – poverty of the heart/soul – than she did when she came to serve the poor in New York City. They had more shelters and food available than the poor in India – but their hearts were starving for love. So she loved them.
God’s love is the most potent healer on the planet – more so than anything else. And that comes from within us. It is tangible – it is real. NOW – as you say!! As we learn to be true Christian – and live with love in every action of Charity – everything changes.
God’s peace and blessing to you all,
Sister Andrea, Order of Mercy – a new way for world peace

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posted October 20, 2007 at 10:10 pm

I spent 10 years between schooling and working in non profit community service groups trying to save the world. I studied what housing groups around the country and the world had done. I studied how to affect public policy. I went and lobbied with groups like Bread for the World in Washington DC and with the Statewide Housing Coalition in Albany NY. And I worked in small neighborhoods in Providence, RI helping support neighborhood groups to reduce crime, start soccer programs for their children and clean up the streets.
And at the end of 10 years I felt more discouraged than hopeful. So little changed, and so little seemed possible. But it was because I was not approaching my work from a place of love. I was approaching it from a place of need. I needed to feel in control. I needed to feel better about myself by making a change in the world outside. I needed a way to distract myself from how awful and alone I felt inside.
A few years ago I stumbled onto the spiritual path, and a year ago discovered an amazing Christian community and school, where I have been given the grace of developing a relationship with God, with our Master Jesus and with our Blessed Mother Mary. And through my relationship with them and the love of my teachers I have begun to feel loved, to love myself, to be healed of my wounds, and to give over my anger and my fears. And as I have become more relaxed and felt more loved, I have once again been moved to love others as I have been loved. I am moved to once again care for my brothers and sisters, but this time from a place of solidity and strength and desire to give what I have been given.
When I give from a place of simple desire to share the gifts that I have received the result is magical. Just talking to people on my commute to work and listening to their troubles can feel like a huge contribution. And I imagine the wave of love that spreads out into the world each time I make a conscious decision to share that love. Imagine if everyone who considered themselves a Christian did that for just one person every day! Jesus was and is constantly giving, He constantly healed and gave money and food to the lepers and the poor and he exhorted us to do as He does and more. I cannot imagine a more beautiful way to live.
Peace be with you,
Shakur Namzoff

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