The Emperor’s New Clothes for Christians – Do You See What I See?

Jesus told us there are separate kingdoms that co-exist:

the kingdom of this world

And the kingdom of God.

I understand that a little better these days.

Last year, I spent my work hours with people of means who retire at fifty, spend their days scanning the stock exchange, vacation in exotic locales, and complain about getting their second homes ready for “the season.”

This year, I drive the same roads in the same towns but now I spend my hours with people who have first-hand experience with homelessness, no bank accounts, no jobs to take vacations from, and who struggle to provide one meal a day for their families.

The people in these separate worlds are almost hypothetical to one another – topics for debate on the evening news, political pawns, targets of envy, derision, or hate, the nameless rich, the faceless poor.

They coexist, though, walking the same streets, driving the same roads, visiting the same locales. A few individuals cross over into both worlds but for the most part, they can go for vast periods of time without acknowledging one another’s existence, sometimes beginning to wonder if the “other” is perhaps not a myth, exaggerated by the media.

I believe God’s heart beats for the lost of both worlds. Unsaved souls have no investment portfolios from which to draw on the last day.

But it’s clear to me that one’s reality is often a constructed thing based on where we choose to set our eyes and ears and hearts.

Just as the worlds of the rich and poor coexist, so does the kingdom of this world coexist with the kingdom of God.

And just as many realities are different for the rich and for the poor, so reality is markedly different for a citizen of heaven as compared to her worldly neighbor.

There is no verse that captures that for me as much as 1 Corinthians 6:7, ESV, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”

That verse is like a slap in the face to the kingdom of this world that is very concerned with rights – exercising them, protecting them, defending them, feeling entitled to them.

The kingdom of this world does not tolerate being “ripped off” or “taken” or “used.” In fact, the kingdom of this world would rather fall short on compassion, generosity, and love than to have “the wool pulled over our eyes.”

The kingdom of this world chooses something that looks like prudence and wisdom over sacrifice and selflessness every time and pats itself on the back for its shrewd ability to self-protect.

The kingdom of God believes that to miss the mark on love, compassion, sacrifice, and selflessness is to miss the point of Christ all together.

The kingdom of God worries less about being wronged and more about missing Christ in disguise, his gnarled and muddy hand outstretched, begging for a crumb of our affluence as evidence that we have sat at His table and fed on His word.

The kingdom of God suffers injustice to self for the sake of the gospel.

The kingdom of God relinquished all “rights” at the foot of the cross and now trusts God for protection, wearing a soft-shelled armor than can be pierced but will not allow eternal damage nor wounds that cannot be healed by Christ.

“Why not rather suffer wrong?” is the cry of a child in the crowd at the usurping emperor’s parade shouting that the prince of this world has no clothes.

If citizens of the kingdom of God do not worry about what we shall eat today or wear tomorrow, what concern is it of ours if, as we give to others out of obedience to Christ, some are wanton with our generosity?

Our generosity, after all, flows from a never-ending stream of riches provided by the King who rules the kingdom that is the only reality that matters, the only reality that extends beyond our final exhale.

So, in those moments today, when you have to make a choice, consider this verse – “Why not rather suffer wrong?” – and weigh your “rights” against the building of the kingdom of God. Then decide.

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