Editor's note:

As we countdown to the start date of the 2017-18 Renovaré Book Club (which is October 23, by the way), we are delighted to share with you another excerpt from Chris Webb’s book, God-Soaked Life, which happens to be our first book of the season. You can find the other excerpt we shared here.

Want to join our growing community of book lovers and journey with them through this book under the guidance of the author himself? Come join us!

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from God-Soaked Life

It’s easy for us, living in a very different world from that of first-century Palestine, to misunderstand all this talk about the “kingdom.” There’s something archaic about the language; we might picture territorial lines drawn on some parchment map being pored over by armored knights while their steely-eyed monarch watches from his magnificent throne. Kingdoms seem to have more to do with Arthurian jousting or Tolkien’s elves than with our contemporary world of polling booths and global commerce.

Like just under a tenth of the world’s population, though, I grew up (and still live) in a modern kingdom —in my case, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I remember the street party we held, when I was a young boy, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee; we hung bunting from the lampposts and laid out trestle tables groaning with food along the length of the road under a bright summer sun. As a boy scout I renewed my oath every week to “do my best, to do my duty to God and the Queen, and to help other people.” My father and stepfather served in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy doing their bit “for Queen and country.” To this day we Brits send letters in the Royal Mail, licking and sticking stamps adorned with the monarch’s head onto the corner of the envelope; we pay taxes to Her Majesty’s government; we buy pastries and coffee in the local cafe using coins and notes issued by the Royal Mint imprinted with the Queen’s image. Reminders that we live in this kingdom surround us everywhere we look.

But for most of us, most of the time, all this is only tangentially about power and authority, or territory and maps. The kingdom I belong to is, above all, a community of people: my family and loved ones, my friends and neighbors, my colleagues and acquaintances, and the millions of fellow citizens whose lives are more distantly connected with mine. The monarch is perhaps best understood less as a ruler and more as a symbol of this huge society and all it represents. Her Majesty’s government regulates the community, her armed forces protect it, the Royal Mail helps to keep it connected. But it’s the people who make it. Sure, we have what Winston Churchill called “this sceptred isle” on which we spend most of our time, but even the land isn’t the kingdom: when I travel abroad, I’m still a subject and citizen, still connected to my people and community. The United Kingdom is who we are together, not where we live.

This is the kind of kingdom Jesus proclaimed; this is what God had in mind from the very first moment of creation: community. A God-soaked community of people whose lives are defined not by territories and authorities, by shifting allegiances to political systems and philosophies, but by deep bonds of love to one another and to their Creator. Rulers and nations come and go. The poet Shelley, in his great poem “Ozymandias,” describes a vast monument to a forgotten dictator in the Middle East carrying a hubristic inscription:

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The mightiest cities will one day crumble, and the most noble societies will pass. But God’s purpose remains steadfast and cannot be frustrated. God, whose presence fills all creation, is calling people to life in a community built on eternal foundations. He is calling you.

— Taken from chapter one, “The Invitation”

 

Starting Soon: The 2017-18 Renovaré Book Club

You’re invited to a journey through four soul-shaping books, like C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Chris Hall’s Living Wisely with the Church Fathers. Read intentionally with a guided plan. Go deeper with exclusive study guides, essays and podcasts. Engage meaningfully in online or in-person discussion groups. Running late October 2017—June 2018, join now to receive the included first book.

Learn more >

Excerpted from God-Soaked Life by Chris Webb, Intervarsity Press, 2017. Used with permission.