Strive first for the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. Matthew 6:33
The world is full of choices and knowingly or not we all live out our priorities. Will I spend time with an old friend visiting from afar or gather at the church for worship or study as is my custom? Is my new year’s resolution more important than the immediate satisfaction of indulging in a piece of pie? These choices fill moments, but there are also some “meta-choices” that set the parameters of our lives. What will be the focus of my life – is there something that is first for me? Jesus tells us not to worry about food or clothing but to seek God’s Kingdom and Righteousness first. This is a big choice to make and making it is even more challenging as we often are not fully clear as to what it means to seek God’s Kingdom. God is higher than we are, and our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, so how do we know we are on the right page and seeking the right things? This month and next I am going to lift up two attributes of God and celebrate them both, but challenge you to recognize that one or the other will be your dominant choice if you seek God’s Kingdom. The two attributes are 1) God is Holy and 2) God is Loving; both of these are fully true but are also from our human perspective not fully integrated. Please consider God’s Holiness and the call to be Holy.
Deuteronomy 23 is a section of the Law given to Moses which describes very practical matters. Where latrines should be set up, how to deal with runaway slaves, and perhaps most importantly, who can be in the assembly of God’s people. Deut 23:12-14 is not a bed rock of controversy these days but a little more than 100 years ago those seeking to seek God’s Kingdom first received the direction of these scriptures regarding “lavatory location” with great distress and debate.
“You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall go. With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement. Because the LORD your God travels along with your camp, to save you and to hand over your enemies to you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.”
As noted, today we don’t usually worry that indoor plumbing for homes or church meeting place as a “seeking God first” concern, but still the question of what it means to be holy and to respond to God’s holiness is. Are we to follow the letter of the law or is there a spirt of the law that is more important?
In the New Testament the first epistle of Peter in the first chapter offers some guidance around being Holy. We receive these words: 13
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Holiness is our call, and to have minds prepared for action with hope set on the grace of Jesus Christ and not conformed to the world is clearly a manifestation of Kingdom pursuit. The question raised for me in the pursuit of holiness is how do I then relate to others who are not seeking God’s Kingdom first or perhaps at all? Next month we will explore the Love of God.