Seek First The Kingdom of God

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Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his justice…

If you have spent any time in the chrurch, you have surely heard, sung, and listened to sermons on these words. And I suspect that I am not the only one who deeply misunderstood them for quite a while. I always assumed what Jesus is saying here is to work on my personal relationship with God. It’s the idea of the quiet time or personal devotions. Alone, in my inner room, with the door closed.

And we often tend to belive that the “real thing” of our faith happens in these personal moments, set apart, when it’s just me and my God.

It comes back to the question that I discussed recently, what is the kingdom of God? Once again, the individualist waters of our society have kept us from understanding the real meaning of Jesus’ words.

It makes me think of a song for children:

Read the Bible, pray every day
pray every day
pray every day Read the Bible, pray every day
if you want to grow.

We put so much emphasis on doing these two things that they’ve practically become the definition of a “good Christian”. You’re doing well in the faith if you read your Bible and pray.

I have nothing bad to say about personal reading and prayer. Both are great blessings God has given us in his providence – and prayer in the secret place is a direct commandment from Jesus. But have you ever thought that for the first 15 centuries of the church, until the printing press transformed book production, that very few Christians had access to a bible that they could read? Was God unhappy with all of these people because they didn’t read the Bible every day?

Certainly during this period individuals practiced their faith personnally, for example in prayer and meditation of the scriptures that they would have memorised.

But we can’t lose sight of the fact that their practice of the faith was, largely, corporate. In the New Testament like in the Old, the reading of the scriptures was done in public, in the community of the saints. God saves us as individuals, but he saves us to form a people, and he wants a corporate relationship with this people, which is his body, as with its individual members. So to seek the kingdom of God, we also need to seek opportunities to practise our faith together – and to consider that these times are just as important as the time I spend alone reading my bible.

I’m underlining just one element of what it means to “seek the kingdom of God.” I think that this commandment also includes Jesus’ mission. It isn’t just a seeking, but a working to implant the kingdom here. But here and now, I find that developing a sense of collective relationship with God is a huge part of what needs to be done for this mision. I’m more and more convinced that it is missing in my context.

So these days, when I pray, « thy kindom come », the concrete thing I ask for the most often is a group of christians who desire to live out a corporate relationship with God in prayer. I can’t wait for the day when that’s the rule rather than the exception.

Next post : We Are The Church Together

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