There is a notion out there that we the people, citizens of the Kingdom of God, are in the business of kingdom building. Being Christian, it is said, means we have received a task, a purpose. We cannot pass this job on to someone else. And, the thought goes, Jesus is praying for us, that we would continue His mission by the power of the Holy Spirit, pleading that we would just get up and go. So get out there and do your job!
It is true that we do participate in the extension of the Kingdom of God, but not in the sense of building it and establishing it on this earth. It has already come in Christ and we find it on this earth in His church, where Word and Sacrament are delivered to us. But it is only a foretaste of the feast to come in His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God, however, is not of this world and will NOT be established on this earth which is passing away. Christ and Christ alone establishes this otherworldly Kingdom in the hearts of men. And He works through means — Word and Sacrament.
Think about it. Any thing that we do is tainted by sin, it is imperfect, corrupted and sinful. How then can we who are sinful and corrupt build a holy, perfect Kingdom? It would never be completed!! The thought that Jesus is just praying for us to be infused with the power of the Holy Spirit to take up the mantle of Kingdom Building is off target as well. He who pleads for us before the Father to spare our lives for the sake of His bloody sacrifice has to pray that God would give us power to build the Kingdom?!? Jesus has to rely on us to build His Kingdom? No!
Christ uses sinful men to proclaim the Gospel and to carry His Word to the lost in this world every day in the things we do in our lives. We do not have a super special extra job to do just because we are Christians. We are ordinary people doing ordinary things. It is Christ who does the extraordinary. It is He who builds the Kingdom, He who creates faith and gathers His flock together. We are citizens of this Kingdom of God, perfectly free princes and princesses, bound to no one. And we are also the most dutiful servants caring for our brothers and sisters in this Kingdom of God AND in the kingdom of the world because of His great love for us. There is no compulsion, no obligation. There is only the new creation we are made to be in Christ, living our lives when and where we are, just as He has called us to be.
Lest we think we are tasked with Kingdom building, we would do well to heed the warning of Dieterich Bonhoeffer:
It is not we who build. [Christ] builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess–he builds. We must proclaim–he builds. We must pray to him–that he may build.
We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.
It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reading for October 23, Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, pages 840-841.