Yesterday I wrote about how the kingdom of God is a kingdom that is both already and not yet. Advent marked the beginning to the rule and reign of God in our hearts and lives with the coming of Christ incarnate. So Jesus was not only talking about a place or an afterlife or future return, but a way of seeing, thinking and living now (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). It is a present reality waiting to be grasped.
So what does such a kingdom look like in our midst? Most of Jesus’ contemporaries didn’t get it. The idea of “kingdom” conjures up ideas far from the reality of what Jesus so carefully taught. Sometimes we don’t get it either.
Jesus described his role or mission in this kingdom in Luke 4:16-19:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus described his kingdom as being marked by justice, peace and righteousness and love. God send Jesus not to establish a kingdom founded on violence, coercion and control. It was not the establishment of an army or a religion. It was the rule of love in the hearts of people. Note what is recorded in Luke 17:20-21, “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
Once we understand this the New Testament makes more sense. For example when Jesus, at the discourse during the Last Supper said….”A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”…Jesus places this new commandment as only second in loving God with all your heart. This would be the distinguishing mark of those citizens in the Kingdom.
During that same discussion is when Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his mater’s business. Instead I have called you friends….” (John 15:15) “I now call you friends”…living in the kingdom encompasses holding a deeply help friendship with Jesus. It would be so much easier for all of us today if Jesus then gave a ten point sermon “This is the kingdom and this is what you do about it.” It would have been so much easier to have a set of rules to live by. But Jesus doesn’t give us that. Jesus didn’t leave us with a list of do and don’ts. He called us into relationship with him in this new kingdom whereby our lives would be marked by love and compassion.
I was surprised during my devotions one time to realize that although the gospels talk constantly about Jesus announcing the kingdom, even in Acts 1 I read that during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension he, again, “spoke about the kingdom of God.”
He seemed to link the kingdom with the life of the Spirit.
I appreciate Christine Sine’s (http://godspace.wordpress.com) thoughts on living in this kingdom:
“Even what he does do during those 40 days is rather strange. No neon lights, no CNN interviews, no leading armies against the Roman legions. All we see is a man spending time with his friends – sharing meals, (even cooking breakfast for them) calming their fears, dispelling their doubts and overturning their confusion – a little like a flash back to the story of the Garden of Eden where God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. And of course the result is the in breaking of the kingdom of God as the disciples proclaim the good news and come together in love and harmony, generously sharing not just food, but homes and resources too.
So the question I am still left with is “What does the kingdom look like?” I don’t have any clear answers and would love to hear your opinions, but this morning it struck me in a fresh way that maybe the kingdom looks like a God who walks intimately with us as a friend, treating us as beloved children rather than as servants. And maybe the kingdom looks like us living as representatives of that loving God – loving others as God loved us – sharing meals and other resources, calming fears, dispelling doubts and in the process laying the foundations for a loving, caring community such as we see portrayed in the book of Acts.”
How is this description of the kingdom of god different that the one you imagined?
How might you participate with God in bringing about his kingdom on earth?