Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of God. Here are some of the things he said; not everyone will choose to enter the Kingdom of God. Those who do must enter like a child. Entrance requires repentance. The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor and the persecuted. It is hard for the rich to get in. In the Kingdom of God being great and being the least are reversed from the way we think of them in our culture. He also said to seek it above everything else.
When he taught his disciples to pray he taught them to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Through the years we have spiritualized the whole idea of the Kingdom of God. Many, if not most people, when they talk about the Kingdom of God are talking about a future reality. It is something that will happen in another time, in another place. Yet, when Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he says it is here. It is now.
Ever since Eden God has been working to redeem us and to restore abundant life to us. The Kingdom of God encompasses spiritual need. But it also encompasses physical and emotional needs as well. This is what God has been about since creation and he invites us to join him. Every time we do something that improves the quality of life for another human being we are advancing the Kingdom of God. We are helping God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
God was and is already at work in the world into which we were born. We can decide whether or not we will join him in what he is doing. In the last several decades the church has expended so much time and energy trying to get people to come to our programs and support what we are doing that I think at times we have forgotten to look at what God is doing beyond our walls. God has never stopped working in communities and lives outside of the church. He is there. Really being involved in the Kingdom of God means finding Him there at your school, at your work and getting involved in what he is already doing.
It seems like ever since the Reformation the church has been focused on getting the message right. And I want to say that I believe that is important. It is important to get the message right. It is important to understand God properly. Poor theology leads to cultural Christianity and things like the prosperity gospel.
But, there seems to be a shift happening these days. More and more people seem concerned about getting the mission right as well. People are starting to understand that salvation is more than praying a prayer for forgiveness and discipleship is more than just exchanging information. Living the truth is about what we actually do in the world around us. It is about what kind of friend we are. It is about how we serve those around us.
There is a really interesting sub-plot in our culture these days when we understand the Kingdom of God in these terms. This current generation of young adults, the group we call Millennials, have a core value of service. More than any living generation, this one finds great meaning in service. They want to help others. It has given rise to a new business model, businesses like Toms shoes. You buy a pair for yourself and a child in a third world country gets a pair of shoes. We take shoes for granted, but in some countries children don’t have any. The result is disease and some are even kept from an education because they cannot walk the rugged terrain barefooted to get to a school. Warby Parker glasses. Buy a pair and a child in a poor country gets a free eye exam and a pair of glasses if needed. Also the employers of LensCrafters travel to third world countries to recycle eyewear.
I have read several stories of young couples or groups of young couples moving into poverty stricken neighborhoods. They build relationships with the people there. They tell them about Jesus. They love them. They plant community gardens in abandoned lots. They repair and repaint buildings and walls and bring some beauty back. Some even help residents start their own businesses there in the neighborhood. You don’t hear a lot about it on the news, but there are inner city communities all over the country from Philadelphia to Portland, being redeemed by people who want to be a part of what God is doing.
Through the years the church has argued over what is our business; to tell people about Jesus or to meet the physical and emotional needs of people. The answer is; Exactly. It’s both. The Kingdom of God encompasses all of those things.
If you want to be a part of the Kingdom of God you don’t have to wait. You don’t even have to go anywhere. Look around. Pray. It doesn’t have to be a project that changes the world. It could be a deed that enhances one life. Where is God at work in your neighborhood? How can you join him? Most importantly, will you join him? Will you help be the answer to the prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”