By: Emily Hall
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays (although Easter competes). There is a deep innate craving within me that the peace, unity and reconciliation of the kingdom would be on earth. Thanksgiving can be a small picture of this as the whole family comes together to share a meal and give thanks. At least for the evening, people seem more likely to put aside differences and share a meal together. This bit of unity, joy, and peace has always brought me tremendous peace and joy.
Family and community are intrinsic to the kingdom of God. God exists as a three-part being in constant communion: a Father, a Son and the Holy Spirit. We are born into natural families, and then are called to live in spiritual family. Family was meant to be a place of love, acceptance and growth, but many of our students (and many of our staff) didn’t experience this type of family.
Broadly speaking, within family it is painfully obvious that the kingdom is not here “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). In America divorce has become pretty normal as we have lost the meaning of true covenant. In traditional thought in Zimbabwe, children are often seen as disposable and are last in the family to receive food or care, leading to malnourishment, disease and/or starvation. All over the world, this reality of family is not a place of warmth, belonging, love, or nurturing.
In John 17 Jesus incredibly says, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (22-23).”
The Bible also reveals God’s desires for unity and peace in eternity: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4). This unity extends beyond natural family, local church family, and into an international body of Christ.
The idea that the entire planet could be in harmony is unimaginable in our world today and seems absurd. Nonetheless, I have to admit that deep down I desire this unity for those around me, and for the world. Even though I have been injured by people, even though I have witnessed families fail, even though I have seen communities fight, even though the news always seems bad…. despite all of these things, I can’t quash the deep longing I have for the kingdom to really come to earth.
Obviously I can’t single-handedly create world peace, but in this moment, there is plenty we can do to grow love, unity and thanksgiving. Through simple acts we literally bring light to those around us, and spread kingdom on the planet. I do the seemingly small, but monumental things that I can to protect love. This includes having those difficult conversations with co-workers and being honest with my husband about how I am feeling. This includes coming out of my shell, trusting those around me with myself, and truly participating.
SROM courses provide a fantastic opportunity to practice being the body of Christ–”being one” as Christ and the Father are one. [Mind=blown] While on course you get to practice loving, peace-making, and seeing the Christ in one-another. We get to practice being vulnerable and letting others love us in our weaknesses and failures. This authentic community is often a powerful picture of the body of Christ for our students and instructors, and is a key part of how the Father uses this ministry to transform lives.
Wherever you are, I hope and pray you have a community where you can practice being one as Jesus and the Father are one. I pray this experience increases your love for Jesus, the Father, and one-another. Even though we may never get to experience the kingdom fully on earth in this life, I am comforted knowing that it is God’s desire to fill one of my deepest desires and bring authentic peace like we’ve never known before.