A Living Language and a Language Lived
Access to the Kingdom of God through the Kingdom Community
By Randy Edwards
Over the course of my academic career (if you include High School), I have studied five languages other than English (of which I have learned two – American and Australian). Of the four non-English languages, three of them are no longer spoken: Latin, Greek, ancient Hebrew and Aramaic. The other is German which is still a “living” language. However, most languages are not simply living but are lived, and this critical distinction is particularly valid for the language of the Kingdom of God. When the language of the Kingdom is lived out, people learn this new language and come to understand it.
Many years ago I was invited to speak to a group of youth leaders on how to do effective evangelism – speaking the good news of the Kingdom of God into the lives of others. When the time came for me to speak, I said to them that I wasn’t going to tell them how to be effective, but rather I was going to tell them why they were effective. I went on to explain that people learn what words mean by seeing them in action, and this action is best understood within a community. This youth
group was an unbelievably loving and accepting community which lived out the values of the Jesus, the values of the Kingdom of God, in clear, demonstrable actions that showered the young people with grace, love and kindness. As these kids experienced the lived language of God’s kingdom, they then understood clearly what it meant to join that kingdom and to participate in making the world a better place for all people.
The church, in all its various forms, is intended to be a lived language. While words will be used, the context and meaning of those words will be found in the way in which the church and its individual participants live out their lives. Compassion will be seen and then understood; grace will be extended in personal relationships, and then its meaning will be compehended; love will be unconditionally provided, and its depth will be recognised. The church is not the Kingdom of God, but it is the expression of that Kingdom; when the church speaks through its actions, others grasp the nature of the kingdom, and, in fact, gain access to it because they can understand what it is all about. One might say that the church holds the keys to the kingdom, not as gatekeepers who decide who enters and who doesn’t, but as a doorman who readily opens the door for visitors and ushers them into the safety of hotel.
Access to the Kingdom of God is always through a lived language. I learned many years ago that “dead” languages, words spoken in past ages but no longer spoken today, are not helpful for contemporary communication. However, the language of Jesus, the good news of the Kingdom, continues to be alive and well only because the church continues to live it. If another language is lived out, then we all become foreigners to the Kingdom, and those who do not yet understand have little hope of coming to understand.