Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Of Generals and Foot Soldiers

Seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

Here is a tall order, no? How exactly do we seek God’s kingdom?

Oh, I know we all have some kind of mental picture in view when we pray “Thy kingdom come.” I certainly always do. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s stewardship of the U.S., I regularly imagined the man’s surprise at getting his just desserts one day. I look forward to all deceivers being shown to the world for exactly what they are: right, left and apolitical alike. I picture the enthroned Christ dispensing justice, the wolf lying down with the lamb, and ultimate truth, love and discernment dictating all aspects of world governance.

There are all kinds of ways we may picture the kingdom. But seeking it? That’s something else. It seems like the sort of aspiration in which one’s reach easily exceeds one’s grasp.

Cosmic Powers and Present Darkness

After all, I do not know much at all about the workings of the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” or the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”. I cannot predict their evil plots or work to prevent them. I cannot picture the great spiritual battlefield in its present configuration, let alone plot the movements of the armies of heaven across time. I can no more locate my place in a cosmic conflict than I could find my way to Kansas without a map, a compass or a GPS. I certainly would never dare try to predict a spiritual enemy’s next move, or strategize its defeat.

I am no general in the army of God, and I am quite useless at doing the sorts of things generals do. I am a foot soldier, and not a very good one at that. What can a mere foot soldier do to seek God’s kingdom?

Plenty, as it turns out.

Atten-shun!

A foot soldier may not be sufficiently shrewd or skilled to design the most efficient possible weapon, but he can certainly care for and maintain the weapons he has been given. As Aslan says to Peter in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “Whatever happens, never forget to wipe your sword.” Sound advice.

A foot soldier may not know how to give orders, but he can certainly jump to attention when they are given to him.

A foot soldier may not be able to anticipate the diabolic devices of the other side, but he can certainly sound the alarm when he spots the enemy coming over the next hilltop.

A foot soldier may not be asked to defend the most important front in the war — he probably doesn’t even know where it is — but he can certainly take a stand on the spot where he has been stationed and hold it to his last dying breath.

A foot soldier may know next to nothing about the more refined techniques of the enemy’s Propaganda and Psy-Ops divisions, but he can sternly reject any impulse to desert.

Ordinary Acts of Obedience

The kingdom is advanced in the smallest of ways. Let’s change the war metaphor. Ecclesiastes tells us Solomon planted vineyards and made himself gardens and parks. It is highly unlikely he did so personally. He was king after all. His time was precious and his projects innumerable. Rather, Solomon was the great landscape designer, who gave instructions to his foremen, who in turn passed on specific orders to hundreds, maybe thousands, of men and women to get to work on particular tasks that would contribute in some small way to the desired outcome.

Each lowly entry-level employee of the palace who correctly identified a single weed in one of Solomon’s flower beds, then dutifully knelt and pulled it up by the root, was thus seeking and serving Solomon’s kingdom, enhancing the grandeur of its king and promoting his purposes as best he could according to the ability and instructions given him.

How is the kingdom of heaven advanced? With every microscopic, humble, ordinary act of obedience to Christ, whether or not the grand strategic purpose of these tiny gestures is ever completely understood.

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