Take Comfort: We Are Not Called to Build

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by Rob Weingartner

Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God (in Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven) more than any other topic or theme. He speaks of how the Kingdom is at hand, among us. We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and to pray that his Kingdom will come. We are to proclaim the Kingdom and enter into the Kingdom.

Looking far ahead, Jesus tells us that people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.

To what shall we compare this Kingdom, this grace-filled realm in which God is recognized as having full claim on us? Jesus unpacks the meaning of the Kingdom in parable after parable.

We announce… We behold… We exhibit… But we do not “build” the Kingdom, despite how popular that phrase has become in church circles. To think about our participation in God’s mission as building the Kingdom is to misunderstand our role in God’s gathering up of all things in Christ. And it is to corrupt our understanding of God’s mission by measuring success in the terms of this world. It focuses our attention on what we are doing in such a manner that we miss what God is doing.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer helpfully frames this. “But it is not we who build. He [Christ] wills to build the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess – he builds. We must proclaim – he builds. We must pray to him – he builds. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of building. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: ‘You confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build when it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.’”  (No Rusty Swords: letters, lectures and notes, 1928-1936)

Take comfort.

Rob Weingartner
Executive Director

The Outreach Foundation