October 24, 2012

Fashioning a Kingdom

It’s natural, as citizens of this world, to look at the injustices that surround us and want to do something about them. It’s also important that as citizens of God’s kingdom we stop to think how this should take place in a “kingdom way.”

Before the creation of this world the heavenly realm found itself at war. The selfless atmosphere of heaven proved irritating to Lucifer, who had come to covet Christ’s position as the Son of God. Ellen White wrote, “The preference shown to Christ he [Satan] declared an act of injustice both to himself and to all the heavenly host, and announced that he would no longer submit to this invasion of his rights and theirs.”1 The rebellion threatened the principles of the kingdom, and the rebels lost heaven.

Justice is part of God’s character. But until then, heaven’s citizens lived innocently of anything that required it, so there was no reason for looking for justice there. The same can be said for the first human pair and this earth. In choosing to follow Satan’s ways, however, they “lost” heaven, and ever since then this world has been in search of justice. Yet what rights are left for such a race, except the right to cast ourselves on the mercy of a Savior?
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Satan’s plan turned everything “kingdom-like” on this earth upside down. People say that Jesus “turned the world upside down.” In truth, He was simply righting it—bringing back the awareness of what heaven is like for those who feel, except for a little thing called the still small voice, that they have never known what heaven is like.

Rights are not claimed in heaven; they are not needed there. But if there were a question about rights, setting them aside and contemplating the ultimate sacrifice is not unheard-of in heaven. For the sake of rescuing the undeserving, such a sacrifice was in fact astoundingly made at the right moment in history. Ellen White wrote, “In stooping to take upon Himself humanity, Christ revealed a character the opposite of the character of Satan.”2

Living Justly
Do we have rights as Christians? We have a right—no, a duty—to represent Christ. We have a duty to keep God’s law, even in the face of persecution; a duty to make things right when others are wronged; a duty to share God’s blessings and help those in need. The only right we have is the one Christ bought for us: to submit our sinful natures to Him and live through Him. Beyond that, He has blessed us with the unimaginably great privilege of being called His partners in the gospel.  

How do we relate to the injustices that others suffer? Can we look on and do nothing? No, we should act. We should share what we have—materially, emotionally, and spiritually. We should give others hope—the hope of salvation! Pursuing justice is one thing. Claiming our inalienable rights is akin to rebuilding a lost world on the premise that this is heaven, or patching together a utopia by forcing necessary justices. Perhaps this is why Jesus, while here, never contended for His rights.3

The economy of heaven works on gracious gifts rather than on rights. A gift is not something one claims. Instead, it is accepted with gratitude and used for God’s glory. The best way to create “heaven now” is to do precisely the opposite of claiming our rights or exalting ourselves. Demonstrating the self-sacrificing love of God is something the world might sit up and notice.

1 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), p. 40.
2 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 25.
3 Ellen G. White, “Child Life of Jesus—No. 4,” Youth’s Instructor, Dec. 12, 1895.

Penny Brink, a native of South Africa, serves as an assistant director in the Stewardship Ministries Department of the General Conference. This article was published October 25, 2012.