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By Justin Long

I'm getting ready to head to the TransformWorld conference next week, and in advance of that I've been ruminating a bit about what "transformation" means. At the same time I've been re-reading the Gospel of Matthew, and of course any time you read that book you're struck by the many times Jesus said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." You can't really come away from Matthew without knowing that the Good News isn't so much about "Christianity" (which Jesus never mentioned) but rather about the "Kingdom of God."

For a single individual to be a Christian or a Christ-follower, most would generally say that the person has to be "born again." He or she has to be transformed. They become someone that is markedly different from who they were without Christ. They have become part of the Kingdom. If this is true, then it follows that when any place filled with people, be it a neighborhood or a nation, becomes full of people who are born again, then that place should be transformed as well.

What does this transformation look like? It would be even more marked than a single individual, because not only are the individual residents of the place transformed, but also their interactions are transformed as well. Here is a brief list of what I call the "Prime Factors" of human existence. These are things that occur to everyone, at least once in their life, if not daily, weekly or monthly:

- hunger
- thirst
- need protection from the environment (shelter/clothing)
- sickness/wounds
- learning
- thinking
- trading/investing/earning/commerce/farming/etc
- communicating with & relating to other people
- dreaming, imagining, inventing, planning
- having emotions and feelings
- hoping for something better
- have a sense of God or the divine
- get tired
- travel

My theory is that, when a collection of people are transformed, every single one of these factors will be transformed as well. Life in the Kingdom must be different from life in any other place. Realizing that we will never have "ultimate Kingdom utopia" until Christ reigns, nevertheless we should be moving closer to that ideal since we should be living as much as possible as we would in that day.

An easy way to see how these things might be transformed is to write, for each of the above conditions, a statement of what is ideal, and the ultimate anti-ideal. For example, the ideal of "hunger" might be "I have enough for my family and I to eat." The anti-ideal might be "I do not have anything for my family and I to eat, and no hope or prospect of ever having anything to eat." To be hungry is what I call a "Gigatrend," affecting more than 1 billion people on our planet today. The starving (the anti-ideal) is a "supertrend," affecting more than 100 million people (actually, over 500 million today, perhaps 750 million by 2025).

Kingdom transformation would mean everyone would move as close to the ideal as possible. So, when a neighborhood or nation becomes transformed because the people within it are transformed, then those who have been transformed should be working to insure the whole nation is changed in this way: that hunger is eliminated and everyone has enough to eat.

Put another way: no nation has been completely transformed by the life-giving, Kingdom-bringing power of Christ if, within its borders, there are people hungry or (worst of all) starving.

I realize that this is what some would call "social gospel." I think similar statements could be written about every single Prime Factor above. What is the ideal situation for learning? What about for business? What about for relating to other people? What about imagination (which is one of the most common words in the Bible)? What about fatigue? What about sickness? All of these areas must be transformed by the Kingdom before the task of bringing the Kingdom into the world is done.


The Reality Check is published semi-weekly by Justin Long, a researcher living in Southeast Asia
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