Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mustard seed Kingdom

Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." Mk 4:30-32

I dusted Dr Peter Toon’s slender book God’s Kingdom for Today off my shelves and read it as preparation for a message on parables of the Kingdom of God. It’s an old book but certainly a gem worthy of more than a second look (the author dedicated it to John Stott). In a section titled The Kingdom of God and Social/Political Action, Dr Toon mentioned God’s requirements for a just society as spelled out in the Torah. This summary was originally reproduced in a 1979 book The Church and Its Social Calling published by the Reformed Ecumenical Synod.

1. Everyone’s person and property are to be secure.

2. Everyone is to receive the fruit of his labours.

3. Everyone is to be secure against slander and false accusation.

4. Everyone is to have free access to courts and is to be afforded a fair trial.

5. Everyone is to share in the fruit of the ground.

6. Everyone, down to the humblest menial and the resident alien, is to share in the weekly rest of God’s Sabbath.

7. Every Israelite’s dignity and right is to be honoured and safeguarded.

8. Every Israelite’s inheritance in the promised land is to be secure.

9. No woman is to be taken advantage of within her subordinate status in society.

10. No one, however impoverished or powerless, is to be oppressed or exploited.

11. No one shall be above the law, not even the king.

12. Every person’s God-given place in the social organism is to be honoured.

13. Punishment for wrongdoing shall not be so great that the culprit is dehumanised.

14. Concern for the welfare of other creatures is to be extended to the animal world.

How all these translate into social action is something to reflect upon, but I felt its message was as pertinent today as when it was first issued. Point 9 may rankle a few people, but the Torah does claim to be God’s word to God’s chosen people, for all time. Beyond the culture debate, the whole notion of a God (Yahweh) who enters into covenant relationship with a people to found a new society predicated upon “historical experience and moral decision” (John Bright) appears to have had no precedence in history. That set Israel apart from the rest of the then ancient world.

"What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?" (Deut 4: 7,8)

There is a social and political dimension to the privilege of being a Christian who now belongs to God’s extended Kingdom. Somewhere between the Kingdom that is now here and the one that is yet to come, is a clarion call for Kingdom people to put hands and legs to what is revealed of its King’s heart. Mustard seed faith’s gotta do what mustard seeds are supposed to do.

2 comments:

The Hedonese said...

Perhaps one of the reasons why the church today lost sight of the social-political dimensions of our faith is our neglect of the Old Testament. So I'm happy that Klang Valley Bible Conference 2006 got Chris Wright to talk abt some of these issues. The promo sounds promising...

It challenges God’s people to remain loyal to the living God in the midst of changing cultural and religious contexts. It motivates them to love God above all else, for the sake of the nations of God’s world. It calls them to live by social, economic and political standards that would make them different, a witness to the nations. And it celebrates the joys as well as the demands of being in covenant relationship with God.

Siva said...

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