Vol 6:2 News-Flash: The Kingdom is Near

This is the second-part of a series of posts interacting on insights shared by Lesslie Newbigin in his study, Mission in Christ’s Way.

As last week, Newbigin notes that in beginning our inquiry into mission in Christ’s way, that we are confronted with Jesus’ first words regarding the Gospel of the kingdom in Mark 1:14-18.

Today, I focus on the kind of announcement Jesus’ statement is – “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” Newbigin shared a fresh insight.

Newbigin expressed that Jesus’ declaration of the kingdom being near “is the announcement of a fact” (Mission in Christ’s Way, 1). He goes on, “It is not the launching of a programme. It is not the promulgation of a new doctrine. It is not a call to moral or religious reformation. It is strictly speaking, a news-flash. Something has happened. There is a new fact to be reckoned with. The kingdom, the reign of God, has come near” (Mission in Christ’s Way, 1).

It’s easy to think of God’s reign as a doctrine, as something we believe, vis-à-vis others who believe something different – the stuff of theological dialogue, comparing our interpretations with the interpretations of others, but that seems to miss the point. I think he makes the point clearly enough – Jesus announced the presence of God’s reign as having come into human history (we discover as we read the Gospels – through his embodiment), as something that was not the way it was before – as Newbigin expressed – a news-flash.

Each Gospel writer has Jesus declaring this news-flash in different ways or in different contexts. Luke for example in Luke 4, has Jesus on a Sabbath in the synagogue in Nazareth reading from the scroll of Isaiah – from Isaiah 61 – declaring, “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind and to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This those listening knew, this was not new news. These were to be the signs of the reign of God having come. What made this into a news-flash was what else Jesus had to say: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

When we listen to the 6 o’clock news, we often hear commentary seeking to understand what the meaning of daily news-flashes mean, their significance for us, for society, for the world. However, the veracity of the event reported upon – as to whether it occurred or not – is not even debated.

Many of us await a world made new when God makes all things new (cf. Rev. 21) – and we await the fullness of God’s inbreaking reign. Yet, Jesus announced almost 2 millennia ago that God’s reign has come near. It has come near – it has taken hold of our lives, it shapes us to be a different kind of humanity in the world, described by Paul as “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).

The inbreaking of God’s reign into human history through its embodiment in the incarnate Christ Jesus is the kind of news story that has shaken the course of the world, but too often the on-going news cycle has distracted us from realizing that God’s reign is still near – it has come near and it is still near.

When we hear of tsunamis, earthquakes, wars, plane disappearances, poverty, famine, race riots, genocide – these news items grab our attention and may even spur us onto action – to give, to pray, to get involved. Yet, the news of God’s reign being active amidst all these other news stories, is often relegated to Sunday messages and baptism catechisms, or worse yet, mere theological inquiry.

I know its time for me, to no longer be distracted by the latest news-cycle and awaiting the next bit of news, but to remember, to be reminded that with every news story or breaking news-flash I hear, that God’s reign is here, is present in a broken and hurting world. And in so remembering, I am challenged anew to be and live as new creation in a world groaning for new creation (cf. Romans 8:22ff).

“The reign of God is here!”

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl