Daily Devotion for January 23, 2021

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ (Mark 1:14-15, NRSV)

I wonder what Jesus meant, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near”?  (The Greek actually indicates the kingdom of God is come near, at hand.)  If we can take Jesus at his word – and, I mean, if you can’t trust Jesus, who can you trust? – then we all need to be living our lives a lot differently.  If we are truly “kin*dom” people (I like using “kin*dom” as a “family of God in Christ” term since I have never lived under a ruling monarchy and am not fully sure what “kingdom” living is actually like…), then the rest of the world should be able to see it in everything we do.  If the “good news” is true and real, then our very identity should be defined by the fruit of God’s holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

First and foremost, we should be known as people who love.  But love whom?  Well, the baseline here is that we love all those God loves, and God loves all those God created, so that makes it easy: we love everyone.  And according to Jesus, we especially love those least easy to love. 
Then we sow joy wherever we can.  The fruit of the Spirit joy is much more than a passive pleasant feeling.  This joy is active; it is our purpose and duty to help others en-joy life.  What can we do to be joy-bearers?  Be positive, supportive, sympathetic, compassionate, merciful, and just for starters.  It doesn’t cost us any more to make people feel good about themselves than to make them feel worse.

Make peace wherever possible, and don’t stir up conflict and discord.  Those who work to divide, to tear down, and to destroy are not kin*dom/kingdom people.  And be patient.  This is a “do as I say, not as I do” observation because I tend to lose patience with others.  I need God’s help and support on this one, but to allow people to be who they are, even when they are irritating, offensive, angry, or oppressive is powerful.
Active kindness, in big and small things, is transformative.  Our world suffers mightily from a lack of kindness, as well as from gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  To pay attention to the “logs” in our own eyes and ignore the “specks” in others is challenging, but according to Jesus it is essential to kin*dom/kingdom dwelling.

Last, but not least, comes generosity.  Being generous has to do with a lot more than money; a truly generous spirit captures the essence of Jesus’ self-sacrifice and giving for all.  To be ready in every instance to step forward and say, “What can I do?” is true generosity. 

Where we see God’s spiritual fruit, we see God in God’s people.  Sadly, it is often absent, which speaks volumes about our understanding of our faith.  The kin*dom/kingdom of God is not far off is some mythic future; it is here, now, lived through the thoughts, words, and deeds of Christian disciples.  It is always active, never passive.  And it resides within each of us to sow, to harvest, and to share God’s divine fruit.  Thanks be to God.

Creative and abundant God, till the hardened soil of our hearts and minds, clear away the rocks and roots, cultivate and prepare the soil that we might receive your Word as seed, and that it might thrive in us, that we might have much to share with others, in your name.  We ask this humbly.  Amen.