But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
Last week I was in Phoenix connecting with several Links Fellowships and caught a few holes of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on TV. The stadium at the par-3 sixteenth is quite a spectacle. The noise level and party atmosphere breaks every spectator protocol known for a professional tour event.
I am ambivalent about what has now become normal for this tour stop. The stadium hole creates a level of excitement and energy golf has never experienced before; for me, this chaos distracts from the tradition of tournament golf. I’m not a purest by any means and often break proper golf protocol. I play many rounds without adding up my score or finishing every stroke. When it comes to tournament competition, however, I play by the integrity and honor of the game.
Change in the traditional protocols in and around golf, like dress codes and spectators at professional events, is irrelevant in the big picture of life. But as followers of Jesus, we must be watchful for where evil wants to steal, kill, and destroy the kingdom protocol that allows us to bear witness for Jesus in a world in a constant state of change.
“Kingdom protocol” is not a phrase we find in the text of Scripture, but it has piqued my curiosity after surfacing in several conversations recently. What might it mean and how do we live it out?
Jesus talked frequently about the kingdom of God. The Strong’s meaning for kingdom in today’s passage means “a royal power, kingship, dominion, rule.” Expanded further, it is “the right or authority to rule over.” The kingdom of God represents his divine authority over all things, and Jesus says to seek it first because in that exploring we find God’s design for righteousness. Our kingdom is the smaller sphere of influence God has placed us in, not to rule over, but to be servants and encourage others to also seek God.
The fruit of the Spirit, which remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, is our best road map for defining the protocols that are to dictate how we live in our kingdom. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul named the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Jesus lived out love on the cross. He engaged children with joy. Peace filled his spirit during his trial. He had boundless patience with his disciples. Kindness and goodness oozed out of his pores toward those he fed, healed, and taught. His faithfulness walked him from village to village preaching the kingdom of heaven. The woman at the well, and many more, received his gentleness. Satan was no match for his self-control during his 40 days in the wilderness.
When I grasp the depths of my own brokenness, I wonder how anyone can experience the fruit of the Spirit in me. But God, through his Spirit living in me, is allowing this very brokenness to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to grow in my heart so that I have it to give away to others.
Functioning kingdom protocol looks like this, then: seeking the qualities of God’s kingdom and emulating the righteousness we find there. In this way, we live for his glory in a way the world can see.
February 11, 2016
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