Giving birth to the Kingdom of God (June 29, 2018)
Last week, I published an angry rant about the heartless policies of President Trump. That’s an important thing to do, calling out the evil we see in the world around us. It’s important to expose what’s wrong with Trump’s immoral, misogynistic, bullying administration.
But I’m also aware that doing so is a negative thing. It’s not a positive thing. When we engage in angry rants, however necessary and well deserved they may be, we don’t contribute to the good of the world.
This week, I hope to take last week’s rant and turn it around to something positive. I ended that column by referring to Jesus, who proclaimed that the kingdom of God was coming to birth amidst the kingdoms of this world.
What is this “kingdom of God” to which Jesus refers? Many have thought that Jesus was talking about a time and place beyond time when God’s kingdom would be brought to full consummation. I disagree. For Jesus, the kingdom of God exists here and now. Jesus saw God present and active in our world, and we live within the reign of God when we recognize God’s full and active presence. This is what we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.”
So what is this kingdom of God?
That’s an important question. We need to be reminded to look for God’s reign among us. There are so many things in this life which distract us from living within God’s reign. There are so many things that happen in our public and private lives which run counter to God’s reign. There are many ways in which we seek to insulate and anaesthetize ourselves to the demands of God’s reign. So we need reminders.
Here’s the beginning of a list. It illustrates the places where we can look for God’s reign among us, but it doesn’t exhaust all the possibilities.
The kingdom of God always chooses love and compassion over rules. That is clear when Jesus heals a man on the sabbath (Mark 3). You weren’t supposed to do anything on the sabbath, but Jesus reminds his opponents that human lives always take precedence over laws.
The kingdom of God is dedicated to dissolving boundaries and borders rather than building walls. Ephesians 2 reminds us that Jesus came to break down every dividing wall between people. The kingdom of God reaches out in compassion and love to break down every wall and build bridges.
The kingdom of God welcomes all people, from the very young to the very old. There’s a story about the disciples wanting to shoo the children away (Matthew 19). After all, Jesus was an important man, too important for such childish pursuits. But Jesus scolds the disciples and embraces the children. Indeed, Jesus holds the children up as models for us—who think we are important. We don’t rip children from their mother’s arms — we hold them and all people safe.
The kingdom of God doesn’t honour the rich or powerful as models of Jesus. Rather, Jesus reminds us that we welcome Jesus as we welcome the least and the lowest of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25). In today’s world, that would include immigrants and migrants and refugees, drug addicts and alcoholics. In fact, Jesus reminds us over and over again that the first will be last; the rich and powerful stand at the end of the life in the kingdom.
In the kingdom of God, it’s not true that God helps those who help themselves. God, through us, helps those who are in desperate need, those who cannot help themselves.
The kingdom of God discounts all our human differences. Paul reminds us that “In Christ, there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3). All human differences and division is wiped away. All are one in God’s economy. There is neither immigrant nor longterm resident. There is neither gay nor straight. There is neither white nor coloured. All are one.
The kingdom of God does not define us primarily by our nationality or our gender or our wealth. Rather, we are characterized by our loyalty to God and our faithfulness to the way of Jesus. Three out of four gospels record Jesus as saying that we should give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and give to God what belongs to God. In Jesus’ worldview, everything belongs to God. We are Christian before we are Canadian.
I could go on. But you get the point. Those who claim to be followers of Jesus are called to look at the world through gospel eyes, through kingdom eyes.
It’s not a theoretical thing—it’s meant to become reality.
It’s not a sentimental notion—it’s meant to be part of our daily lives.
It’s not a normal thing—it’s powerfully countercultural.
Jesus calls us to incarnate that kingdom. The kingdom becomes real in us. God claims us, and we act by speaking words of hope, reaching out in compassion, and living with a deep love which includes all people.
When we begin to do that, when we begin to act on the faith we claim to hold, then the kingdom of God begins to be born in us. Then we can truly pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.”
Rev. Yme Woensdregt