Eccentric Christianity: Part 7, The Eccentric Kingdom

This will be the last post in this series where we have been exploring the metaphor of eccentricity in Christian belief and practice.

To summarize, in my book The Slavery of Death I talk a great deal about having an eccentric identity, an identity "hidden in Christ." I've not talked directly about the eccentric identity in this series as I've written about it extensively already. This series has been about other applications of eccentricity beyond the description of an eccentric identity.

And so far we've seen how eccentricity can be used to describe transcendence, the prophetic imagination, hospitality, enchantment, the positive facets of doubt, and the economy of love in the faith community.

In this post I want to describe how eccentricity can be a metaphor for missional ecclesiology.

We've already seen a hint of this in Part 2 when we noted how eccentricity can describe the outward-looking orientation of the hospitable community finding God in the stranger. That post in describing this eccentric orientation--facing outward rather than inward--could have served as the sole observation regarding ecclesiology, but I wanted to add one more insight.

Specifically, the idea I have here is the contrast Nathan Kerr makes in his book Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission. Specifically, we should think of the Kingdom less as a territory (e.g., as a city or polis) than as a mission.

As a sojourning, landless missionary community the Kingdom of God doesn't claim and then defend space over against others in the world. As the old hymn testifies, "this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through."

To be sure, the pilgrim nature of the Kingdom can tend toward the escapist. But the eccentric metaphor can help here by highlighting that the issue isn't escaping from the world but, rather, being radically in the world. The goal isn't to leave the world but to live in the world without boundaries.

The Kingdom doesn't withdraw and hunker down behind bunkers and high walls. Rather, the faith community is sent into the world as salt and light. Not of the world, but very much in the world. The separation between the Kingdom and the world isn't a boundary but one of vocation and calling.

As my ACU colleague Randy Harris has remarked, perhaps the only good thing that came out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the word "embedded," where journalists were described as being embedded among the combat troops, became a common word. Because the word embedded is a perfect word to describe the relationship between the church and the world.

The eccentric Kingdom doesn't claim territory over against the world. The eccentric Kingdom doesn't erect walls to create a gated community. Rather, the eccentric Kingdom, like salt and leaven, is embedded in the world.

The eccentric Kingdom is the embedded, pilgrim, landless, possessionless, homeless, sojourning, itinerant missionary community called and commissioned to live lives of radical service and availability to the world.

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5 thoughts on “Eccentric Christianity: Part 7, The Eccentric Kingdom”

  1. Your last two paragraphs are priceless. Being salt and leaven, living lives of radical service, rises so, so far above the call of "Be one of us". The world hears that every day; too seldom does it enjoy the comfort of healing and acceptance.

    But it is that word "Acceptance" that repulses so many evangelicals. To them, it rings of "You're allowed to do anything you want". When in truth, acceptance is embracing another in a way that they can see themselves in us. That is when our presence is pure service and healing.

    I know of a small community that had two thriving Honky Tonks back in the Seventies and Eighties. They're all closed now. Someone is probably saying, "Well, that's a good thing". Maybe. But I recall a conversation among old High School friends when one who had come in from out of town mentioned how he noticed the Honky Tonks were closed and boarded up. One friend who had remained in town over the years said, "Yeah. Every one who went goes to church now". His friend remarked, "That's nice" The other replied, "I guess. But the funny thing is you can't find any who admit they were ever in one".

    Maybe simply giving ourselves in the admission of, "I haven't always been this 'tame' or as clean as I seem...", is what the world needs to hear. Because when a disciple of Jesus is this vulnerable, he or she is close enough and willing to "wash a few dirty feet" or clean a few "running sores".

  2. I second StillWondering's comment about the last two paragraphs being priceless. Have also been enjoying this series -- thanks for your insights.

  3. If you started charging for your blog, I would probanly stop reading it.....but quite reluctantly. :) Eccentriciy in action is the antedote to a rationalized racism or whatever kind of peopleism our selfish fearful prejudice thrusts away or avoids. Jesus went about doing good, even at his own expense as the world was invaded by the Kingdom. Perhaps a book is forthcoming on the eccentric kingdom....surely an offering worth paying for!

  4. The eccentric Kingdom
    Is God and heaven embedded in the World? is Jesus inside a flower? can the Holy Spirit embed inside of mankind's soul? I believe the answer is yes, yes, yes. We can talk about the light of God flooding the earth, it gets more tricky when we talk about God's energy passing through earth and being present in matter. Regarding the Holy Spirit being in mankind's soul. well the answer to that question depends on the individuals belief or not in Jesus Christ. Jesus or love are much easier to understand; why? Well people can easily relate to the human Jesus who breathed the same air as us some two thousand years ago, and died in order to save me and you from spiritual death. Regarding God being eccentric, I myself cannot agree with, however I will try to understand due to God being everything even eccentric. Strange things have happened in the Bible that's for sure.

  5. Reminds me of Mat 16 - the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. Hell is in the defensive position, behind the gates and wall. The church is on the march.

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