Recently I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Scot McKnight called “Kingdom Conspiracy.” McKnight is a New Testament scholar, historian and theologian. Any questions about the integrity and authority of the Bible, I’m sure he is your guy.
But fair warning, this is not a light read. It will rattle your theology. It will change the way you understand Jesus and the kingdom of God.
A conspiracy by definition is a secret plan by an individual or group to do something harmful or unlawful. A conspiracy can change the normal order of things, turn things upside down, make you rethink the way you originally thought about something.
When Jesus of Nazareth was living and teaching on earth, his teachings on the kingdom of Heaven were seen as a conspiracy, or a different way of looking at the framework of society. The kingdom was a secret plan, open to everyone. But those who accepted the teachings of Jesus had greater insight into the conspiracy than others.
Parables were an example of this. The parables in the gospels contain hidden wisdom. The parable was available to all, but the hidden meaning became uncovered to those in the know, or those who accepted Jesus and his kingdom.
The most poignant of impressions is left on the reader when McKnight states that;
“Christ came to build the church/kingdom, not to make the world a better place and not for the common good.”
Are the “kingdom of Heaven” and “the common good” the same thing?
It is important to identify the qualities of those who can enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew chapter 5 is Jesus outlining those who will be blessed. They include the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those chasing God’s righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted because of their righteousness.
Hardly the sort of people you would expect in high ranking positions in society.
Furthermore, Jesus in Matthew chapter 5 informs us that you are blessed when people insult, persecute and speak evil of you because you are representing the kingdom.
Jesus Christ came to build the kingdom. The kingdom is different to what society is. But regardless of what is happening in society, according to Jesus, we are blessed when we are living according to kingdom principles.
Sometimes we mistake common good with the kingdom of Heaven. The common good is simply what is shared and beneficial for most members, or what can be achieved by collective action.
We want this world to be a better place. We want this world to be peaceful. We want people to get along with one another. We want no more terrorism, no more world wars, no more poverty, no more famine, no more refugee crises.
But do we achieve this because it is the common good, or because we are expecting the kingdom of Heaven?
The common good is no more war, but the kingdom of Heaven is for those persecuted for claiming Jesus is king.
The common good is for equality, but the kingdom of Heaven is for the last and the lost.
The common good and the kingdom of Heaven can not be the same. Jesus came to build the kingdom of Heaven, not achieve a common consensus for what the world should look like.
Are we living lives that reflect this? Are we bringing kingdom principles to our workplaces, our relationships, our lifestyles? Or are we simply living for the common good, a society imposed standard?