What if heaven sent us a gift but we tried to give it back?
When Jesus trained and released his disciples, he provided a remarkable level of equipping: “He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9: 1 - 2)
Even among those who welcome the signs of the Kingdom (which include healing, cleansing, and freedom from demonic oppression) there is a tendency to consign the powerful manifestations of the Kingdom of God to another age. “The day will come,” we might be tempted to say, “when he will wipe away every tear from our eyes and set the captives free.” And we would be right because the fullness of the Kingdom is only realized at the end of the age. Theologians call this the tension between the “already” of the in-breaking of the Kingdom and the “not yet” of its completion.
What has troubled me in recent years is our habit of settling for the “not yet” when Jesus clearly gave us a task that requires heaven to break in now. Jesus instructed his followers to seek the Kingdom and order our priorities around heaven coming to earth. We live in the tension--the conflict--of this present age and the age to come. But we are ambassadors of the Kingdom; it should be our native tongue. The challenge--the temptation--comes when we settle for the “not yet” as an explanation for our inability to carry out the mission.
I have a friend who came upon an automobile accident just moments after the collision. A baby was thrown from the car. He scooped the infant into his arms and began to pray for the child’s life. He cried out until the EMT’s arrived, but the baby was dead. Overwhelmed by the trauma of the event he holed up in his apartment for days, sick over his inability to represent the Lord in a crisis. He was not angry at the Lord: he was dissatisfied with the level of Kingdom authority in his life. “You deserve better, Jesus,” he prayed for days. “You deserve better.” He emerged from his apartment with a determination to carry the Kingdom with him, because he was disciple. Since that watershed tragedy his ministry has been marked by the consistent in-breaking of the Kingdom, marked by signs and wonders. His theology was unchanged, but his expectation had grown large.
The sick, the hurting, and the hungry are queuing up because their need is now. Should we teach them to be content with the “Not Yet?”