The kingdom is a state of heart and mind, not a place. It is embedded in the connective tissue of the universe which is Christ; it is love, as in God is love, that binds us all together. Whoever carries the kingdom in their heart and mind brings it wherever they go. The kingdom is the wheat among the tares until the harvest[Matt. 13:30], coexisting like a parallel universe right next to what we consider the “real world.” Over the next few weeks I want to explore what the kingdom could be in our lives today, what the essence of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom is. Today’s theme is that the kingdom exists right here, right now.
Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say “thy kingdom come.” Do we even know what we are saying when we repeat these familiar words? Jesus surely was certain about the kingdom, he taught about it frequently, but does the interpretation we’ve inherited, that the kingdom is only in the afterlife, in heaven, make sense in light of his teachings? In the three Synoptic Gospels Jesus spoke of the kingdom in the present tense: the kingdom is “at hand”[Matt. 3:2 KJV], “has come near.”[Matt. 3:2 NIV] The kingdom is “within you”[Luke 17:21KJV] or “in your midst”[Luke 17:21NIV] or “already among you”[Luke 17:21 NLT] All these suggest that the kingdom is present, within us as well as among us.
If we believe what Jesus said, then why don’t we experience the kingdom, why don’t we see it before our eyes? For too long Christianity has held that the kingdom can only be brought on this earth by God, by Christ’s second coming, or that it only exists after we die in heaven. But why else are we here? Why were we created with specific gifts and interests, if not to serve God by being living proof that one can live in the kingdom during this lifetime? Why do we read the Scriptures and try to live in obedience to God if the purpose is not to show others how, not by preaching to them, but by living out our purpose? Aren’t we supposed to grow out of the “real world” and into the kingdom?
It is my contention that God has a specific purpose in mind for each of us in our unique creation that, if lived, will bring the kingdom alive and visible on this earth. God needs each of us on the world’s stage, doing what we were created to do and to be, each of us adding our voice to the chorus of people who can love and follow the Lord. This, to me, is the purpose of the church, the one body of Christ, to make real the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” I’m afraid that the church is a far cry from living these lyrics, with fellow church members not respecting and loving each other, with denominations fighting and not embracing each other, with us not living the radical nature of Jesus’ teaching, only a watered-down version in which we look good, but others can see the Pharisee in us.
No longer are we to think of the kingdom as distant, only to be accessed after death, but as a real, vital “place,” an alternative to the world as we see it, as real as the world we know, but existing under different laws. The kingdom is in the here and now, as close as your breath and as accessible as breathing, if we are willing to abide in God and to follow his leadings for us. He would evoke in us the capacity to love, and when we can love—embrace, accept, forgive, be patient with, be kind to ourselves and all others, then we will find ourselves living in the kingdom.
Have you experienced God’s love at all? Have you rested in the presence of God where everything needed is given and all you need to do is 1)to be true to yourself and to our creator, 2)to trust God to meet your needs, and 3)to listen and heed what God tells you. It is infinitely simple to be and do and yet so hard. To live in the kingdom we have to give up our attachment to everything cultural and worldly and to learn a whole new way of being– being in the world but not of the world. Not just in the words we say, but also in the way we live our lives, in the way we are attached to God, co-creating as we go.
We would move from our normally hypocritical selves where our public face doesn’t match our interior condition, to a way of being that is the same on the outside as on the inside—totally transparent. Our actions and our state of being speak louder than any words we would ever speak. Others trust us because we are true, whole, complete and fulfilled in our relationship with God: integrated, whole, righteous, not out of a fastidious adherence to the rules, but arising from resting in the arms of Love where we can no longer choose to do anything but love.
Questions to ponder: Where do you stand? In the kingdom or outside of it? Is God’s love flowing in and out of you freely? What would you have to give up to make this happen?