Langford (Why the Bible Is So Hard to Understand, 2015) discusses what he believes is the central focus of Jesus’ ministry: the kingdom of God.
The author’s study lays out what he sees as the characteristics of “the kingdom”—which he defines as “a world shaped by the character of God, embodying the ways of God”—and how it’s “at cross purposes with the world—society and culture shaped by the inherent inclinations of our self-serving human condition.” In other words, the kingdom, being reflective of God’s own character, often stands in stark contrast to ways that come naturally to ordinary people. Jesus’ life and ministry on Earth, he asserts, offer a glimpse of the life that all Christians ought to seek. By looking closely at Jesus’ example and walking in repentance, he says, they can learn how to live out of step with the world, pattern their thinking and behaviors after God’s character, and ultimately experience a “God-shaped world” in which “people relate to one another out of grace and forgiveness; power is used to serve; and material wealth is used…for the good of others.” Langford effectively encourages his fellow believers to cast off what he sees as fear-based thinking. That said, the text is a little repetitive at times, and the differences between the “kingdom” and “God-shaped” things can be difficult to parse: “A God-shaped world—the kingdom—is inseparably tied to God-shaped lives….A God-shaped life…is a life patterned after the ways of the kingdom.” But overall, this will be a satisfying read for Christians who, like the author, see the importance of emulating early Christ-followers’ priorities, particularly regarding living a “transformed” life and living in close community with other Christians. Overall, this book offers inspiring goals for believers to pursue.
A relatively straightforward message for a very specific audience, enriched by its focus on Christian community.