Reyes. Inkwell. Nashville.

I love to capture the ordinary moments in life, and enhance their beauty with an artsy Instagram filter. The filters are good at hiding the blemishes of everyday moments and softens the wrinkles of the mundane. They blur the lines in just the right way so that everything glows and everyone who views it will be envious.

In Mark 1 Jesus say, “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The Greek word for repent is two dimensional. It is first to stop doing what you’re doing, and then it is to go in an entirely different direction. To repent of sin, does not mean I ask for forgiveness and then go back to doing what I was doing. It means I stop and go a new way. 

In order to clearly see the kingdom of God, I have to repent of the sin that is in front of me. Sin distorts my vision of God’s kingdom.  When I scroll through Instagram, I see the way that the filters provide nuance or distortion. Sometimes a filter can even make an image unrecognizable.

Instead of being able to see God’s kingdom the way it is supposed be lived out in our every day lives, we see it through the filter of sin. Matthew 4 warns us of 3 ways sin distorts God’s kingdom.

1. Sin distorts our sense of security. Jesus is reminded that he could turn the stones into bread. It’s simple, really. He’s hungry. He could just feed himself. He’s capable of providing for himself.

When we see God’s kingdom through the filter of sin, we don’t see God’s kingdom as a kingdom of abundance. We hold on to what we have with tight fists, instead of opening our hands. We don’t see the ways that we can meet the needs of the people around us, but we only see the ways our own needs aren’t being met. Sin distorts God’s kingdom where all are equal, and tempts us to believe that we are the most important. Sin prioritizes security over love, confuses hope with fear, and turns our neighbors into our enemies. Instead of standing with open arms, we clinch our fists. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of plenty, where there is enough for everyone. It is false to think security exists anywhere else, can be provided by anyone else or can be attained by anything else.

2. Sin distorts God’s promises and provision, tempting us with power. Sin is the murky, yellow film over our eyes, making the kingdom take on the wrong hue. When Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan led him up on the high point of the temple and told him if he really was who he said he was, then he should do what the people expected him to do and the kingdom would be his.

When we see God’s kingdom through the filter of sin, we don’t see God’s kingdom as a kingdom of peace. Sin distorts God’s promises and turns them into personal arrogance. It’s like when we try to make a deal with God, “God if you do this for me… then I’ll do this for you…” Or when a politician is trying to get our vote, “If you vote for me, then I’ll give you power.” Instead of going God where God’s at work, we ask God to get to work on our plan. We like it when our privilege and power work to our advantage, and we can climb the ladder as high as we can. In doing so, we can enforce our values, beliefs and way of life onto other people. God’s kingdom is a kingdom not brought by an allegiance with the powerful, not through force and violence. It comes through associating ourselves with the vulnerable. The kingdom comes through peace. Jesus is with the least, and we won’t find him until we meet him there. In the darkness. At the bottom. Not when we’re standing at the top, waving our star spangled banner.

3. Sin distorts our purpose within God’s kingdom. Satan tells Jesus, “All this I will give you, if you bow down and worship me.” Sin distracts us away from God’s kingdom and sends us off after personal pursuits. It tempts us with sparkly things, career achievements, or the ever elusive search for happiness. It places our identity in our personal success rather than our membership in the kingdom.

When we see God’s kingdom through the filter of sin, we define ourselves by the markers of success as defined by our culture and not the characteristics of Jesus. We forget it’s about compassion, mercy and justice for all people, and start justifying our lines in the sand. We threaten to put up walls and not let people in. All the while, Jesus is working to tear down the boundaries, and create a kingdom where all are welcome. 

It’s time to repent. It’s time to remove the filter. 

Christianity began as a religion born to a poor woman, with a message of hope for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked and the prisoner. Jesus’ family had to flee the country to escape the threat of a power-hungry king. They were refugees in Egypt as they waited for political change in their homeland. Jesus spent his entire ministry being attacked and trapped by the religious and political leaders of his time, and eventually they were able to kill him. Many of Jesus’ followers were killed for their faith over the next 300 years.

It wasn’t about security, power or success. Those are the things Satan offers us. In Mark 12:29-34 Jesus tells the teacher of the law that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. The teacher responds back by repeating these two commandments and Jesus says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God looks like loving God and loving others.

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