The Kingdom of God... What is it?
I read recently that the Kingdom of God 'begins with us'. But if it begins with us then it becomes a kind of abstract spiritual concept, one of the many that are floating around our shores in the form of ‘mind body and spirit’ categories of bookshop chains; another form of ’spirituality’ that we can try alongside kabbalah, horoscopes and reading tea-leaves.
The general way of seeing God’s Kingdom as something that begins ‘within us’ is like someone attempting to sketch a landscape picture with a wax crayon instead of the proper artist’s equipment - the outline of the picture might be comprehensible, but the the full glory of the landscape will most likely be missed.
God’s Kingdom in other words is the Sovereign Kingship of God. The reign of God over the heavens and the earth, the true King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s covering this place ‘as the waters cover the sea’. Israel’s KIng was God himself, until ‘they wanted to be like the other nations’ and have a King for themselves. Eventually their fate which was bound up tightly with the many failed kings that they had led them into a physical exile and what seemed like a spiritual abandonment from God. But…
There was always the promise that God would one day become King again over not just Israel but over the entire cosmos. All the nations would be blessed by his reign, he would bring comfort, healing, transformation to his land. He would judge evil, show it up for what it was and defeat its’ power once and for all. Some believed (not least many prophets) that he would do this through an earthly king, the anointed king (messiah) would be do what no other earthly king could ever do. His servant would usher in the new age.
So when Jesus in Mark 1 says that ‘The Kingdom of God is upon you!’ he is announcing that through him, God is finally becoming King! The Good news of the Kingdom is a summons to everyone on the planet to give their allegiance to King Jesus, who of course is not just an earthly King, but as the early Christians would soon discover after his resurrection, he was the embodiment of the One True God’s return to Israel, God incarnate.
You and I and everyone who gives our allegiance to the King are called to die to ourselves everyday, and to enact upon that summons. God builds his Kingdom, as Tom Wright says, we ‘build FOR the Kingdom’. We each take our place in working for God’s grand project of new creation which was start with the death and resurrection of King Jesus and will be fulfilled when ‘God is finally All in All’ (1 Cor 15.) When he draws all things in heaven and earth under him.
Being Kingdom-bearers means to work for all that is good, holy and just. To go out from our Corps energized to work and serve and love and heal and strengthen and on and on…
I’m only just beginning to realize what a gift this is, but I will continue to do this for the rest of my life.