Yesterday, as I was waiting for the light to change from red to green, two primary-school aged boys walked across the pedestrian crossing directly in front of my car. Well, “walked” might be the wrong word choice. They pranced. With one hand holding imaginary reigns and the other spinning a mock-lasso, they shuffled sideways across the road. If you’ve been alive in the past few months, you’ve heard the hit song, “Oppa Gangnam Style” and probably seen kids, teens and adults doing the dance.
With amazing energy and a catchy tune, this Korean song has topped the charts in 33 countries. It has swept the world. Kids, particularly, are singing the chorus and doing the horse-riding dance with gusto. Kids live to imitate, and Oppa Gangnam Style is fun, funny and fully engaging. Kids are loving it!
This success of this song is amazing, not only because it is in Korean, but because the actual words tell the story of an “oppa” (a Korean term of respect for ‘older brother’) who is cool even though he is not muscle-bound, drug taking or time wasting. He is a hard working city dweller. He works in an office all day and enjoys hanging out with his friends at night. And his girlfriend is just like him. They are normal people. The music video starts with in a playground full of children where Psy (the singer) is trying to get some sun, suggesting he’s babysitting his nieces and nephews. This is the kind of guy we all wish we had as an older brother!
Gangnam is the wealthiest part of Korea. To live there is desirable but requires wealth, which requires hard work and higher education. “Oppa Gangnam Style” means, in effect, “I’m the respectable older brother who lives in Gangnam and I am who you should want to be when you grow up.” In today’s wealth and prestige focused world, Oppa Gangnam Style is presenting a much better message than many other popular songs which promote unhealthy lifestyles and unbalanced relationships. Oppa Psy is family we’d like to have.
In church circles, we hear a lot of talk about family. At a baptism, people say, “Welcome to God’s family, brother.” At church we might hear, “Good morning sister, isn’t it good to be part of the family of God?” And we pray, as Jesus taught us, “Our Father . . . ”
But, when Jesus talked about the people of God, He called them a kingdom. He said the “kingdom of heaven” belongs to the poor, the persecuted and those who realize they need God. He said we should want the “kingdom of God” above everything else because God gives every need to those who seek His Kingdom.
So why “kingdom” rather than “family”? What does this mean to you and me? For one thing—a pretty awesome “one thing”—it means our “Father” is the King! And that means we are princes and princesses—we’re royalty!
But there is so much more to the kingdom of God than making us feel good about being part of the in crowd. As we explore the kingdom Jesus talked about, we find a place where the poor are cared for, the sick are healed, the rich share, children are included, sinners repent, and outsiders are welcomed.
Jesus said this kingdom—the kingdom of God—is very near. For Jesus, the goal wasn’t so much about getting yourself into the kingdom, but letting the kingdom get into you. And once that happens, the kingdom becomes like a little yeast in a lot of dough. It spreads in you and through you and you rise, as someone new—a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, more commonly known as a Christian. Jesus calls us, in effect, to live “Kingdom Style.”
Another important reason Jesus called His people a kingdom is because a kingdom is built, maintained, beautified, and expanded by the citizens, not the King. The King defines the kingdom, sets the laws and governs the people. Living “Kingdom Style” means each of us is busy bringing the kingdom to life in every word and action. The kingdom of God is created anew each and every day by each and every one of us.
And we do it together. To put the principles of the kingdom into practice is to become the ‘big brother’ who draws others to live “Oppa Kingdom Style.” This is discipleship. The kingdom of Heaven is all about community. Perhaps this is why we like the family metaphor so much. God’s kingdom feels like a big happy family. We become stronger in our faith and more effective in our mission when we work together. Living “Kingdom Style” cannot be done alone. True kingdom citizens—true Christians—live “Oppa Kingdom Style” recognising that we walk in someone’s footprints as someone else walks in ours. Together, we are the kingdom of God.
As you walk—whether it be across the road at a red light, at the park with your family, or to serve the needs of a suffering world—may you walk, hand in hand, Oppa Kingdom Style.