In our men’s Bible group we are studying the Lord’s Prayer. One of the petitions to God is ‘thy Kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6).
People often ask, what exactly is the Kingdom of God? One great definition I found is that the Kingdom is the restoration and reconciliation of all creation. It is where the will of God is effective. It is the presence of Jesus which inaugurates that Kingdom, the reign of God’s love over and in all.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem to face his crucifixion, he was declared King by the welcoming crowd (Luke 19). Upon the cross, his ‘throne’, he wore a crown of thorns with a sign above his head that read ‘King of the Jews’. There was no doubt that Jesus came to bring God’s decision against sin, Satan and death. Satan was cast outside of the Kingdom. While Satan might be called Prince of the world he is not King. The devil is now under the sovereign rule of God. And when we see the healings and exorcisms of Jesus we see the Kingdom doing the restoration and reconciliation, a work to which the church, the community of believers, is called today. That is the Good News.
There is no dichotomy between the spiritual and earthly Kingdom. God never ceased his work on earth. God has always had a plan, a witness, a people, and prophets willing to go forward to see this Kingdom come. When Jesus tells Pilate that the Kingdom is not of this world, he is saying that the rule of the creation does not come from the will of humans or the strength of humanity nor does it take its character from the sinful way that this world operates. But make no mistake, God has always been in this created world moving God’s plan forth. As Jesus said, “Not even hell itself can stop the progress of the Kingdom, represented in the church”(Matthew 16:18).
And that brings us to now. Where is this Kingdom? What does it look like? Well, it is always a matter of action, which might begin as personal salvation, and includes all of our lives, the words we speak and the actions we take. The Trinity is now our King. In the Book of Revelation when John turns to see the Lion on the throne, what he sees is a Lamb, bloodied and bruised from suffering for us.
And so, whenever and wherever we act in the name of Christ, in the image of Christ, we are announcing the restoration and reconciliation of God for God’s creation. It’s happening wherever the will of God is being done. It will cost us much to be part of this Kingdom work. But never doubt that what you or I may do for God is part of what will end up being the full restoration and reconciliation of earth.
Yes, salvation matters, as a lifelong process begun by God through Jesus and to be absolutely completed at the coming of Christ. (See Philippians 1) Salvation includes taking care of the most needy in this world. In his inauguration speech Jesus said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (freedom).” (NRSV Luke 4:18,19)
This is what Jesus came to do and what he calls us to do, following his life and words. (See Matthew 7)
The rules of the Kingdom are simple: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. God and our neighbor are in everyone we encounter. We dare not denigrate the image of God in others even if that ‘other’ doesn’t realize that they bear the image. (See Acts 17)
Advent and Christmas is the season to become more aware that our King, though born in a cave, went on to be Sovereign Ruler. I love this line from the song “Mary Did You Know”: “This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.” That’s the Christ in our lives, our suffering Lord who promises that no matter what trouble we face in this world, we can trust our Lord for deliverance… for us, for others and even for this material world.
I conclude with words from the book “Kingdom Ethics” by Stassen and Gushee: “God’s cosmic project is the reclamation of God’s entire creation.” (p.18)
Some call Christmas the birthday of the King. Let’s live like it really is. I’m going to try my best.