Two thousand years ago the earliest followers of Jesus Christ were asking the wrong question. Coming out of the soul-stretching season of watching their Messiah betrayed, crucified and entombed, only then to experience the ecstasy of seeing Him raised, the disciples were eager to understand what Jesus would be doing from that point on. Here’s what Luke records as the very last question Jesus was asked before He returned to His glorious place at the right hand of the Father:
When they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” – Acts 1:6
This lone question revealed that, after three years by His side, the disciples still did not comprehend the mission of the Master. They were thinking way too small about His Kingdom. They downsized His mission to be all about their nation when Jesus came to establish a cosmic Kingdom. They had seen all the miracles, listened to all the sermons, been authorized and empowered to work the miraculous, observed Jesus as He tore into hypocritical religion, and they stood nearby as he welcomed both notorious sinners and innocent children into His hallowed presence with equal grace. Jesus gave them all that they needed…but they still missed a full understanding of His mission. They were looking for a little-k movement from Him. Jesus came to establish a capital-K Kingdom. As a matter of fact, His is an all-caps KINGDOM and this will be the enduring reality for all the ages.
I want to go easy on those early disciples because they were not privy to all that we are privy to. They did not have the full disclosure of the New Testament. At the point referenced in the verse above, the disciples did not yet possess the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would lead them into all truth. They had been taught their whole lives about the little-k kingdom for Israel. It would have been challenging for them to embrace the capital-K or all-caps Kingdom that Jesus came to make a reality. If I am being honest, we sometimes suffer today from their same disease…but we don’t quite have the same excuse as them. We have been given capital-K disclosure but are often guilty of living little-k lives.
If you are still in that place upon your Christian journey where externals mean the most to you then you may struggle with the capital-K mindset. In the little-k kingdom you will be allowed to be narrower than you should be – in fact, you will be taught to be so. Little-k ministry will be exclusive and likely keep more people out than it welcomes in. Denominational loyalties always thrive among little-k’ers – lots of walls and very few bridges are found there. Fear thrives in little-kingdom hearts; all the what-iffer’s shout down the let’s-seer’s. In little-k gatherings it is tight and hard to breathe and, when you do breathe, the air is stale because it is recycled, having been the same air breathed in and out for decades. I have previously been a little-k husband, a little-k dad, little-k Christian and a little-k pastor so I know of what I write. The more I studied the scriptures, the more I saw just how little my k was compared to the K that Jesus offers and that the apostles blueprinted in the New Testament. I wanted out, and King Jesus (capital K!) was gracious to me and my blind heartedness. He sent His word and shepherded me forward into a more clarified comprehension of what He offers. He indeed uses many of the things in the world of little-k in order to serve the capital-K. The problem arises when we forget the capital-K calling because the little-k is easier and quicker. Little-k is religion. Capital-K is relationship. Little-k is self contained. Capital-K is…risky and messy. I escaped little-k by God’s grace and now He’s calling me to endeavor to lead others out also. If you want to, you can.
Now what about capital-K living? When you live there you prioritize people over policies, truth over tradition and trends, love over legality and proactivity above prohibition. You are drawn to the outcasts when you embrace the capital-K faith. You regularly go outside the camp and beyond the minimum. Captial-K living plays out seven days a week. Little-k lets you just do your thing on Sundays without much expectancy the rest of the time. As a capital-K citizen you are deeply concerned with pleasing your King and less concerned about everyone else cheering you on. You don’t stopwatch your daily prayers, you actually enjoy them no matter how long or short they are. Bible reading moves from the motive of gathering knowledge, routinely completing an enforced quiet-time, systematizing your theology or preparing for a religious debate… and moves you into the world of rejoicing and resting in a personal God’s self-disclosure. In a capital-K Kingdom you become about setting people free and trusting God with their futures. If you are the leadership type of person, in capital-K living you become a happy servant instead of a controlling tyrant. We look beyond the American dream of education, career, prosperity, leisure and retirement and recognize that the end of the race is actually at the bema seat of Jesus Christ when we will be rewarded for exchanging a little-k life for a capital-K life. The longer I ponder the capital-K reality, the more I hunger and thirst for righteous freedom. My children will be offered a Kingdom and will consequently know that it will cost them their kingdom. If God allows me to continue on in my journey as a pastor, I intend to point all the people I can into the beauty of capital-K life and mission. What I am learning is that this is what we are all looking for anyway. It’s just that people are afraid because when you have lived so long in the lowercase, the capital life seems foreign. I’m learning the exchange is worth it. I hope you will too.
Those Acts 1:6 followers indeed asked the wrong question… but Jesus sent them the right answer which began to unfold on the Day of Pentecost. The early church went all capital-K on the world to the extent that soon enough one slander against them was that “These have turned the world upside down!” (Acts 17:6). I would put it this way: They upsized everyone’s understanding by offering a capital-K to those who were living for a little-k.
Blessed are they who upsize the Kingdom.