Disciplined to the Kingdom

[Dr. Stanley Jones. 1930s to 1940s. Courtesy of GCAH of The United Methodist Church, Madison, New Jersey]

In Is the Kingdom of God Realism? (1940), Jones discussed the importance of small groups in discipleship for both individual and social holiness.

Christianity began as a group movement. Jesus called twelve men around Him. If He taught individuals, He did not teach them an individualistic religion. “There is no such thing as solitary religion in the New Testament,” says [James] Moffatt, and he is right. “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The Kingdom was to be given to a little flock and not merely to individuals. The Kingdom would come through group action. 

If these Kingdom-of-God groups are to be effective, they must be unreservedly committed to Christ and unbreakably committed to each other. They must enter a conspiracy of love to keep each other up to the highest standard of living. Moreover, these groups must discipline themselves away from the trivial and marginal to the central and fundamental. They must deal with diseases and not with symptoms. They must demand that the church and society deal with the underprivileged, not on the basis of charity, but justice. 

We are willing to be charitable, but we are not willing to be just. . . . 

A disciplined group would not despise charity, nor would they be blind to the fact that charity may be eyewash and a substitute for justice. A small disciplined group would penetrate through the veneer of things and show how utterly incompatible with the Kingdom of God this present order is; for it is based on selfish competition where the weakest go to the wall, whereas the Kingdom of God is based on mutual aid: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” 

Flock of archangels

Nor would the remedy be to change a few men within the order and hope that they will make the order other than what it basically is. As someone has said, “A flock of archangels administering this order could not make it other than it is.” The order has to be changed from a competitive one to a cooperative one, for the future of the world is in the hands of those who cooperate on the widest scale for the highest ends. It has been said, “The men of science have been saying all along that the secret of survival is mutual aid and the chief cause of extinction is failure to cooperate.” 

But in this cooperation, this disciplined group would show a new motive: “Be subject one to another out of reverence for Christ.” “Be subject to one another”—that is pure Democracy. “Out of reverence to Christ”—that is pure Autocracy. The two principles of Democracy and Autocracy are put together in a living blend and both are fulfilled.

 Moreover, a lasting foundation for cooperation is laid if you are subject to one another out of reverence for Christ, and not merely out of reverence for personality, as many humanists advocate; you will not get tired and lose your faith in man as those humanists often do. You have to believe in, and love something higher than man in order to believe in, and to keep on loving man. A disciplined group would show this and illustrate it in their corporate lives.

By E. Stanley Jones

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #136 in 2020]

E. Stanley Jones from Is the Kingdom of God Realism? Reprinted with the kind permission of the E. Stanley Jones Foundation.
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