“Thy kingdom come!” Do we know what this proclamation means? What does the kingdom mean to us? Is it in some distant second coming? Or is it in the here and now? Jesus taught about the kingdom frequently. It seems to me that he came to teach us how to live, how to be alive, and fully present and fulfilled in all that we do.[John 10:10] And he taught how to be in the right relationship to God. When we can do both, we live in the kingdom.
To me the kingdom here on earth is not Eden, it is a messy, challenging world through which God leads each of us. Where God continues to embrace us no matter what our challenges and how we handle them. The kingdom is a real community where nutty Aunt Alice is allowed to be herself as well as the homeless person. All are embraced and all are welcomed. It’s not a feel-good place where anything goes, but where all are asked to move beyond their own selfish desires and problems in order to make a real community, where all are supported in meeting their challenges, where all gifts and callings are honored, where God is the center of everything.
It’s a place where we imperfect human beings nonetheless are capable of great love and service, while still feeling inadequate to the task. All we need to live in the kingdom is our commitment to put God first and to forge a true partnership with him. Everything we will need is supplied by God[Matthew 6:25-34 KJV], as we give ourselves up to living in the present moment, being with whatever or whoever is before us. It is a place where our efforts are multiplied in effect by the Holy Spirit. It is a place where the needs of the one giving and the one receiving are met. It is also a place where we aren’t just givers and others just on the receiving end. The giver is also receiving, as the receiver is also giving.
It’s an egalitarian place, where no one is above another. Where there is no advantage from arriving early[Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Matt. 20:1-16] or having more education, wealth or anything. We are just all human beings with our pluses and minuses. The kingdom does require that we give up all jockeying for position, defending our actions, putting ourselves forward as more important than someone else. Any power in the kingdom comes from love, not from power over someone else.
Humility and innocence are big currencies in the kingdom. It’s a place of privilege in that God honors all of who we are, but it is also an egalitarian place as I’ve written above. Humility is about knowing our true place in the scheme of things—we are equal to every other human being and second to God. As to innocence, remember that Jesus said “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”[Mark 10:15 NIV] Innocence, as I understand it, means untainted by the desires of the world, God-centric, not egocentric. Humility and innocence actually are good partners, the key to entering the kingdom.
The kingdom is not a perfect place in that everyone follows the rules perfectly and behaves as they are supposed to. Rather it is a place where our whole selves are welcome, where we are riding the rails to the perfection of love, but it is a far distant goal. In the kingdom we are living life to its fullest and our own purposes to fulfillment. There is great love and service there as well, because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Whole, is in charge. It is egalitarian, full of humility, not the false debasement of self, or self-puffery, but of knowing our place in the scheme of things. It is peopled by those who are committed first of all to God, to love.