“Do you take your grandchildren to church?” my neighbor was asked by another neighbor. “Yes, my daughter brings them over Saturday nights and then I take them with me on Sundays. They love it.” He responded, “Brainwashing them, are you?”
She was staggered. The tone. The language used. It left her breathless. She looked at him thinking “what should I say?” and said, “The God I know loves them and loves you,” she told him. “We all need an introduction.” When she saw me later that day, she invited me over. She told me of the encounter and said, “I think I should have said more. I just feel deflated, like I missed an opportunity. I wanted to say, ‘And I am praying for you too.’ and feel disappointed that I didn’t.”
Hearing what had transpired I thought I caught that it was a conflict of kingdoms that had occurred. It is less about our neighbor and more about the spiritual stuff behind him that is so challenging. It is a spiritual scrimmage that took place. This is possibly why she felt so beaten by it. It was the wrong voice whispering in her ear. I told her, “You know, God can write straight on crooked lines, and we have plenty of them. I’d trust that you did just exactly what God wanted and I’d like you to remember there’s an enemy who wants to steal your joy. Don’t let him do it.” We prayed for our neighbor.
There is a kingdom.
There might be an effort to change out the word kingdom today, for something less “male” (king) or powerful sounding. Also, some say it is a word meaningless in our world. But I cannot think of a better one. Although McLaren has suggestions, they all fall far short of the reality that there are realms in conflict around us and that we are in that we can get in the crossfire. They fall short of explaining the rulers and powers of this world. They fall short of defining what it feels like to encounter a scrimmage like my neighbor experienced. We might want to soften the word, but we will miss out on crucial theology in our effort.
There is a kingdom. And there is a King.
Maybe some bristle against this idea. But for me, it causes me to breathe easy. There is a King. And we are in a kingdom realm that is full of light, power, and impossibilities made possible. A kingdom in which by faith we have authority to act. When the disciples in this passage encountered an unexpected test of faith, they were in awe of the King. Know the king and encounter the kingdom. Come and worship.