They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. —Isaiah 2:4b
Change Worry to Creative Work for the Kingdom
If you have a problem with anxiety, you might be a creative. And if that’s the case, perhaps you can channel your worry into a creative endeavor. Nearly every negative personality trait has a corresponding positive trait or strength. If you’re imagination runs wild into all that could go wrong, (mine does) maybe that could point you to a good trait. Instead of worry, use your imagination to create something beautiful or helpful. As followers of Jesus, we need to use our creative imaginations to seek God’s peaceful kingdom not only for the future in heaven, but also for our present circumstances.
I wonder if Jesus’ direction in Matthew 6 is applicable here. Jesus said, “Don’t worry, but seek God’s kingdom” (my paraphrase of Matt. 6:33-34). As Jesus’ followers, do we have the imagination to believe things can change for the good? Some Christians are convinced these are the last days, so everything will get worse, and they’ve given in to worry. I don’t buy that line of reasoning. Many of us claim to believe in the miracles of Jesus, so do we not believe God can bring about his kingdom in 2021? Okay, maybe the kingdom isn’t to be fulfilled completely until we all get to heaven someday. But do we not believe God is at work to bring about his kingdom through us during our lifetimes—at least partially?
A Kingdom That’s Not About Fighting
The term “kingdom of God” may not sound like a good thing to the modern reader. It may conjure images of an imperialistic kingdom using weapons of violence to subdue its enemies, but Jesus clearly had a different idea. When questioned by Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36 NIV). The early Christians did not fight with literal weapons of warfare, only with prayer, faith, and the spiritual armor of God listed in Ephesians 6.
In Luke 4: 18-21, Jesus announced his idea of “the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). He described it this way:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began by saying to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
A Kingdom for Now
Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled.” Perhaps we lack the creative imagination to believe God’s kingdom might come in our lives. Some thought the world would end with COVID, but it didn’t. And how many of us saw God heal our loved ones, like my now 91-year-old mother, who would have died last year had God not intervened?
Look at the stories of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1. God intervened to bring about the impossible in both of their lives. Elizabeth had a baby in her old age and the virgin Mary had the baby Jesus. We serve the God of the impossible. Brian McLaren explains the purpose of such scriptures in this way:
“What if their purpose is to challenge us to blur the line between what we think is possible and what we think is impossible? Could we ever come to a time when swords would be beaten into plowshares? When the predatory people in power—the lions—would lie down in peace with the vulnerable and the poor—the lambs? When God’s justice would flow like a river—to the lowest and most “god-forsaken” places on Earth? When the brokenhearted would be comforted and the poor would receive good news? If you think, Never—it’s impossible, then maybe you need to think again. Maybe it’s not too late for something beautiful to be born. Maybe the present moment is pregnant with possibilities we can’t see or even imagine.”
Neglected Scriptures on Peace and Justice
Just in case the verses referenced above are not familiar, allow me to share them.
Isa. 2:4 NIV: He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Isa. 11:6 NIV: The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
And here’s the Bible verse Martin Luther King Jr. quoted often. Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
I wish the churches of my childhood had emphasized these verses much more. Maybe we need to revisit them as actual possibilities for our lives, instead of burying them in a coffin with all of our hopes until the resurrection day.
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