I’ve said it many times before, but before J and I got married – or even got back together – I would pray that God would only bring us together if our unity was better for the building of His kingdom. After all, that is what He created us to do.
If you are not a Christian and you are reading this, please just know that if someone tries to tell you about Jesus, they are inviting you to join God’s kingdom, and it is fully motivated by love. Actually, I know this isn’t always true. We have all witnessed or been on the other side of judgement or hate “in the name of Jesus.” If you have experienced this, I’m so sorry. It’s not Jesus that those words are coming from, I promise. He does not call us to hate anyone. He also does not call us to judge. Will there be judgement? Yes. Is it our job? No. Is it our job to maybe like pre-judge people to help take some weight off of God’s shoulder? No.
Jesus commands us to love one another as He has loved us. What does that mean? What does His love look like?
Before I came to know Jesus, I thought He was just a guy who was born on Christmas, then walked on water, oh and he hated gay people and anyone who didn’t go to church. But the thing is, I had it all wrong. Jesus doesn’t hate. He actually desires that we would all be reconciled to God so we can basically party in eternity together forever. In fact, the Bible tell us this so clearly, but it too often gets overlooked because it comes directly after the most well-known and memorized verse in God’s Word – John 3:16. Don’t miss or skip over John 3:17, though. which says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
So Jesus came to save, not condemn, which He did and does through love. And as Christians, He calls us to live in a way that others see His love through us, that they may also be saved and reconciled to God. I mean, the bigger the eternal party the better.
So our lives are meant to be purposeful, truly bringing as many people to the party as we can. And since marriage is like… a big ol’ lifelong commitment, and J and I are seen as a package deal, it has always been important that our marriage reflects this same kingdom building purpose. But ever since we said “I do,” my head has been spinning, trying to determine what exactly kingdom building looks like.
I know that when you have a party, you have to send invitations. Whether you mail out colorful, glittery papers, or send out a text to your buds, you have to tell people about the party in order for them to come. So of course, the same must be true about spending eternity in heaven with Jesus. If someone doesn’t know about a party, they aren’t going to come. We’ve got to tell them!
But here’s the thing that I believe we so often forget…. it’s more than just an invitation. People want to go to parties where they will feel comfortable and loved. People want to go to parties to celebrate, or even just enjoy the company of others. So you’ve kind of got to convince them the party is worth showing up to before it happens. Otherwise, they don’t know what they are getting into, or what they will be missing. You’ve got to put in the work, and that work is more than just telling people they should come.
I think kingdom building also takes more than just telling people about Jesus and the eternal party He wants to share with us. I think kingdom building is a lifelong purpose that requires a lifelong posture.
So if our marriage is to be better for the building of His kingdom, how can we be honoring God in this way? What can this look like in a marriage, which is an illustration of the relationship between Jesus and His church? What can this look like in the heart of any believer, who may not even be married, but who is still called to go and tell people about the good news of Jesus and this eternal party called heaven? I’ve been praying about this for a while, and I think there are so many answers to these questions, but here are a few that God has really laid on my heart.
5 ways God can use us to build His kingdom
It starts with me taking a look at my own heart and turning to Jesus – a mindset that both partners in a marriage need to recognize.
In order to be a witness to the gospel, we need to align our hearts with God’s Word and God’s will. We need to be in right relationship with God, through repentance and turning towards Jesus. Especially when it comes to recognizing the sin in our own heart and desiring the Holy Spirit to make us more like Him. Matthew 7:3 says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Whether that “speck” is in the eye of our spouse, our neighbor, or a stranger, it should not be our concern. Kingdom building is not about us, and we cannot make it about us. When we truly look at our own hearts, we will better see our need for Jesus, which is who this is all really about.
Some days my heart finds it easier to show grace to criminals and people who don’t tip their waiters than to my own husband. But as believers, we are being sanctified to be more like Jesus. And Jesus is full of grace. The more grace we can give in our home, the more it will pour out into the world.
Pouring into fruitful relationships.
Community is such an important part of discipleship. It is through our relationships that we experience vulnerability and growth, as we are challenged, encouraged, and held accountable. (This is especially something that you have to make time for in marriage. Husbands need men who will push them to be the leader Jesus has equipped them to be, and women need women who will encourage them to continue to follow their husband as he follows the Lord.) By allowing God to grow us through fruitful relationships with the people He has placed in our lives, we can become better spouses, parents, friends, leaders, and neighbors. Also, we may be able to invite some more cool people to the party!
Less words. More love.
John 15:13 , Jesus tells his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I used to think this meant throwing yourself in front of a car to save your friend or taking a bullet (picturing myself in the Wild West, so I think J has been making me watch too many John Wayne movies). Laying down your life, though, also means dying to your self – all of your wants, “needs,” expectations, etc., and man oh man is this difficult. Honestly the whole getting hit by a car thing seems easier sometimes. You know what I normally do when I don’t get my way? Say words. A lot of words. A lot of whiny words. Sometimes it is about silly things, and sometimes I might as well be saying to J, “I don’t think you are leading this family well. I think I could do it better.” Or you know, maybe just skip that conversation and go straight to God saying, “I don’t think you’re doing this whole sovereign thing as well as I could do it.” Sit down, Ash. Learn to choose your words well. And learn to love sacrificially well. Remember that party you want to tell people about? It’s not about you anyways.
Be open to new and wildly uncomfortable experiences together.
I like the comfort of our home. J likes the comfort of our community. Together, we both could stretch and grow a bit more. After all, God doesn’t live in a box, and we can’t try to put the greatness of His work in a box either. He wants to do big things, but we have to let Him, and sometimes this means being wildly uncomfortable. Our faith doesn’t grow in the familiar. This can look like a lot of different things – maybe knocking on a neighbors door you’ve never met, traveling across the world for a week or even a decade, joining a new church or Bible study, changing the plans you thought He had for you, or believing in the work God is doing…. not even in you but maybe in your spouse. Knowing you’re taking on something new is scary, but much more encouraging with your spouse holding one of your hands and God holding the other (metaphorically speaking of course). Be open. Be willing. And be bold. That’s the posture we always need to take as God’s kingdom builders.
Luckily God doesn’t need us to build His kingdom, but He does find joy in using us to do so. How cool is that?! And even these five ways look different in each of our lives. God has given us gifts and strengths and even scars as tools to point others closer to Him. No matter where He leads us, what gifts He has given us, or what people He places near us, we’ve got to keep our eyes open to His goodness today and focused on the joy set before us.
Jesus is throwing a party, tell everyone.