When in Rome . . . The Culture of the Kingdom of Heaven

Picture of a passport for the United Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven - Like a foreign culture.

Kingdom of Heaven – Like a foreign culture.

Being bi-cultural is difficult. I refer to people who live successfully in different cultures at different times. Perhaps they are missionaries, expatriate business people, or part of a marriage that bridges two cultures. To a tiny degree I experience it when I return from the USA to the United Kingdom, where I grew up. After a few hours of extra concentration, I adjust to driving on a different side of the street. My English accent is not always understood by Americans, and it is sufficiently Americanized that English people comment on it. In many ways I think and act like an American; yet I immediately understand what British people are thinking and why. I can fit well in both cultures, but not one hundred percent in either.

Christians usually don’t realize it but every one of us is bi-cultural. We’re getting used to heaven but the homeland tugs at us. We need frequent reminders of the first rallying cry of John the Baptist and Jesus. It was like the flight attendant’s announcement when a plane touches down in a foreign country, “Welcome to the Kingdom of heaven. Please remember to drive on the right side of the road!”

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:1-2; 4:17; Mark 1:14-15)

Notice the context of the two announcements. John preached in Judea, the Jewish heartland. The ordinary people seemed to respond well but when the religious leaders slithered up, John challenged them, “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.”1 John came to dynamite rocky religious obstacles that blocked the path to relationship with God. His call for repentance was about as welcome as an explosion.

Jesus waited until the authorities had imprisoned John. Then He moved to Galilee where the locals had a reputation for non-conformity to religious and political niceties. The Galileans already knew they were sinners. Exactly the same words on Jesus’ lips conveyed a message of freedom. To humble Galileans, repentance spelled release from bondage and light ousting darkness.

The kingdom culture is different from any culture on earth. Even exemplary religious leaders must humbly accept that God’s ways are higher than our brightest and best. The word “repent” includes the idea of changed thinking, but it implies changed behavior too. Any thoughts and actions that are contrary to life in the kingdom of heaven are sinful and need to change.

I find myself struggling on two levels. Sometimes I try to live the Christian life in a worldly way, applying the world’s resources and values to good ends. For instance, I depend on harder work or a bigger investment of money in Christian projects rather than seeking God for fruit in those projects.

A more subtle struggle is when I live the worldly life in a Christian way, applying Christian behavior and seeking God’s provision and protection. The subtlety is the hidden goal—my own glory, not His.

Of course, we are all transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of heaven the moment we repent and believe in Jesus. Yet in this life we will always be bi-cultural. We have a lifetime to adapt to the culture of the kingdom, to “get with the flow” of kingdom “traffic.”

Train yourself to habitually ask what the objectives of the King are, and what are the methods of the kingdom? We are to live the kingdom life in the power of the Spirit. That means seeing life through God’s eyes and depending on His help to accomplish His will for His kingdom.

Please share Bible Maturity with anyone who would benefit from other Bible devotions like this one.

  1. Matthew 3:7-12. []

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