We sing, “I love thy kingdom Lord” but what do we mean by that? “The church our blest redeemer saved,” says the song. Are we referring to the people (for Christ saved individuals) or do we think of the kingdom and church as something apart from the people?
We should love the saints, and it is heart-warming to meet with brethren who show a genuine concern for one another, who have established strong personal ties, who enjoy being together. But I have seen this kind of love in college alumni associations, or other social clubs. Is love for the “kingdom” or “church” only a party loyalty?
Jesus told a man, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk. 12: 34) when he saw that the man understood His teaching. All men of that day were the same number of days from the first Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection - so it was not this event to which Jesus referred. Rather, He meant the man was close to grasping the principles of the kingdom. He was beginning to see that service to God (“kingdom,” from basileia, rule), involved total submission, in love, to God, and an unselfish love for all of our fellow men. (Read Mk. 12:28-f)
Do we “love the church” if we are more concerned for our “public image” than for God’s approval of our work and worship? Do we “love His kingdom” if we regard its principles as “unrealistic” or “too much pie in the sky”? Loving the kingdom of God means loving that realm in which Christ is first, where His “mind” becomes our way of thinking, where self is denied and we live for Him. (Gal. 2:20)
When one loves the principles of God’s kingdom, the “cross” is easy to bear. (“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother!”) There is no figuring how little we can “get by” with, nor just how much “attending” and “giving” will satisfy the law. One is aware of many shortcomings, and realizes that without the mercy of God, expressed in Christ’s sacrifice of Himself, none of us would “make it.” When kingdom principles are so imbibed as to become our principles, we will “naturally” obey (Phil. 2:20), and love the church as ourselves (Eph. 5:28-32).
- Plain Talk, Jan. 1982