“Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:19-20 CSB
We moved to Japan when I was four years old. My father, a U.S. Marine, had previously served in the Middle East and Viet Nam. This was our first overseas adventure as a family.
“Our neighbors will be Japanese,” Mom said. “God makes us different.” She said we were privileged to live among beautifully distinct new neighbors.
Mom embraced Japan. She dragged the family all over in trains and buses. We camped on Mt. Fuji. We dug for clams in the bay alongside our Japanese neighbors.
Dad’s next orders brought us to San Diego. Mrs. Clark was my new fifth grade teacher. In her class, I learned about slavery. She read an abridged version of Roots by African-American author Alex Haley. He recounts his family history from Gambia, Africa to America. The story horrified me. The abduction, transport, and enslavement of free-born Kunta Kinte, Haley’s ancestor, was shackled to the hull of a slave ship stuffed with other men, women, and children. Many died and were tossed overboard; unprofitable, disposable. At 10, I was devastated to learn this was how the world worked. “There is no way this is how God wants things to be,” I remember telling my mother.
“Men can be very cruel,” my mother said. “You must make every effort to love others even if it seems you’re the only one doing it. This is difficult, but it matters.”
In the verse above, we get a glance at heaven’s diverse human population. The word “nations” is translated into English from the Greek word ethnos like our word “ethnic.” Every human ethnic group is represented.
The Mission of the Church
The mission of the Church is to build a new culture that reflects God’s love and goodness. This is our task as people reconciled to God. This is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus expects the Kingdom of God to invade our world through those who pray His words.
Jesus gives His vision for human relationships in Matthew 18:18. “Whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.” Theologian Ben Witherington writes, “Jesus believes that decisions taken on earth have eternal consequences. Heaven is not seen as the place where all things have been predetermined, rather there is an interactive relationship between events on earth and things in heaven.”
In Matthew 18, Jesus teaches about justice and equality, the outcome of human relationships made right. The results echo into eternity.
Here’s the challenge: practice makes perfect. Do what Jesus teaches in Matthew 18. Get good at these and we’ll be better prepared, now and in the future, for living in God’s everlasting Kingdom.
Lord, please open my eyes to how I can make relationships in my life look like the relationship You want to have with me. May I live the kind of life where it is easy for Your Kingdom to invade the everyday world around me.