It’s easy to imagine we are more virtuous merely because we’ve felt or expressed something – whether conviction or indignation or righteous anger or even guilt. The Bible never does.
“Dear children,” urges John, “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”
“Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”
Certainly, whenever we see the ugly consequences of evil, lament is the proper beginning. We name and mourn hurt and sorrow. Next, we repent as we name and turn from the ways that evil has found quarter in our own heart, too. Then, from this valley of tears, we begin ascent. We name and turn toward the hope that springs from the strength and goodness of God.
But we must never stop here. For God always invites His children to join in His work of justice and restoration. The Bible describes this as the coming of God’s Kingdom.
God always invites His children to join in His work of justice and restoration.
Advent means “coming.” In the Advent season, we anticipate and celebrate the coming of the promised Christ. But this sense of dramatic arrival is not about Christmas only. For the Christian, Advent pervades every inch of life.
For the Christian, Advent pervades every inch of life.
The Kingdom of God arrives wherever God’s loving rule becomes visible. Yes, we long for the day when He will set all things right. But this Kingdom is breaking forth even now. Even under the oppressive yoke of Roman rule, Jesus could declare without irony, “The Kingdom of God is among you.” Every broken body healed by Jesus, every soul restored, every relationship reconciled was an expression of the Kingdom coming. It is the same today. In every true act of healing and restoration, God’s Kingdom is made visible.
In every true act of healing and restoration, God’s Kingdom is made visible.
How can we live into the Advent of this now-arriving Kingdom? We pray for it: “on earth as it is in heaven.” We rejoice when we see it, like old Simeon as he cupped the baby Jesus in his wrinkled arms. And we seek it, above all else, like children laboring earnestly alongside their good Father.
For each of us, the task of restoration will be different. Even in the realm of race-based evils, the opportunities for Kingdom endeavor are boundless.
- Calling the church to repentance for racial sin and guiding both white and black toward reconciled relationship, like John Perkins or Tony Mitchell & Bill Ibsen.
- Strengthening community organizations that help struggling neighborhoods to heal and thrive, like Bob Woodson.
- Serving in those community-building organizations, like Matt St. Pierre of Restore Merced and thousands like him.
- Combatting individual injustices and reforming entire systems, like Bryan Stevenson in the US or Gary Haugen globally.
- Joining in shared meals and conversation with people across lines of races, ethnicity, economics or any other perceived boundary, like Senator James Lankford.
- Working to reverse the factors that underly “disproportionality” (the fact that African-Americans represent less than 14% of America’s child population but 23% of children in foster care): from racial bias in the judgements of social workers and judges to the high percentage of children born without married parents.
- Serving in government to ensure the very best systems possible to protect children from abuse and neglect while also strengthening struggling families, like Sharen Ford and Felicia Mason-Edward.
- Advocating for kids in foster care, like Eleanor Johnson and DJ Jordan and Willie Moore Jr.
- Helping build a local network of churches that supports foster, adoptive and restored biological families, like Darren Washausen … or simply being a support for a single one of those families.
- Equipping churches to support families at risk of disintegration, like Maridel Sandberg and David Anderson.
- Mentoring disadvantaged youth and giving them vision and connections for a bright future, like Whintley Phipps.
- Offering a new adoptive family for children who can’t return to their family of birth, like Tony Mutabazi.
- Providing a loving foster home and encouraging others in your church to do the same, like Bishop Aaron and Mary Blake.
Each of us can play a part in God’s work of justice and restoration, the advent of His Kingdom.
The list could go on and on. We cannot do all these things, perhaps not more than one well. To love and serve effectively, we must act with a wide vision and narrow focus.
But whatever our role, each of us can experience the unparalleled joy of being part of God’s work of justice and restoration. As we do, we live into the reality of advent, the coming of the Kingdom, both now and yet-to-come.
To read: Micah 6:6-8, Matthew 6:33
To explain: Share the idea of the “Kingdom of God” — and how we see it break forth wherever God’s loving rule is made visible by His people. Then share how we can celebrate and work for the advent (coming) of this Kingdom now, even as we look forward to its future coming.
To discuss: Where do you see the Kingdom of God breaking forth? In what broken situations do you especially long to see the Kingdom break forth? What role might you be able to play in that?
To do: Join in a prayer of “advent” – both celebrating the coming of God’s Kingdom in Jesus and in every life that reflects His will…and also expressing specific ways you long to see that Kingdom come and His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
For further exploration: Bishop Aaron Blake and Diego Fuller tell their story of foster care and family.