I’ve been thinking recently about the Kingdom of God. I’ve been thinking about how we sometimes think that life is this one thing here and now and then we die and live in the Kingdom of God. It seems like oftentimes we separate the two and make them even more disconnected. One is here and now.
Then there is eternal life.
But is it actually nearer than we think? If it is, how does that change things?
In many churches we say the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. In it, we pray a prayer that Jesus himself prayed and taught us to pray as well. It says in the prayer,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In that one line we are praying that the kingdom of God comes into a reigning existence on earth.
Here and now. That the perfect order that God created in heaven that existed in the Garden of Eden (for a very brief hot second) can exist on earth. So we are praying for us to fall in line with the will of God, to work as the perfect system that God designed…not the dysfunctional power structures we have implemented. This is a huge prayer because it disrupts the world we so often know. It alters our systems of power and oppression, of self serving looking out for number one to become something more like what God intended it to be. That Kingdom is not American or a particular political party or race or social class or even ideological perspective. It is the Kingdom perspective. That is what we are working towards when we pray that prayer.
We confirm that thought process when we say, “thy will be done”.
God, let your kingdom come and let your will reign!
When we pray this we are actively saying, my will and my desires will take the back seat to God’s. Now…I think when we follow after Jesus, when we seek to understand our God and wrestle with the scriptures, likely our wants, our desires, will actually fall into line with God’s. Just like when you are with a person or group of people, the more you are with that person or people, the more you all tend to want the same or similar things. You become N’SYNC (bye bye). When we pray that prayer we are asking to become more in sync with the Kingdom.
That line ends with
“on earth as it is in heaven”.
We want earth to reflect the Kingdom of heaven. We want it to be on earth just like it is in heaven. Now, obviously if God wanted to, God could force us to do that…but I think it is our prayer and then our call to work towards that.
Here’s where this becomes real good. Our prayer is not just some future idea…it is for now. It is that we are practicing, preparing, praying for the Kingdom of God, to work in the economy of the Kingdom, to live in the ways of the Kingdom here and now. When Jesus has a conversation with a scribe about what the greatest commandment is, he tells him that it is the Shema from Deuteronomy 6. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then he says the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. When we do those things, we are practicing the ways of the Kingdom. The scribe reiterates it back to Jesus and says that loving God and neighbor is greater than sacrifices or rituals. Jesus responds with, “you are not far from the kingdom of God.” We are learning the ways of the Kingdom now, because we are not far from the Kingdom. The Kingdom is here.
So. When we sometimes may think that this life doesn’t matter or my actions make little difference or who cares because this will all fade away and we’ll all live forever in heaven at some point…I think we need to stop and remember that we have a responsibility to live out the Kingdom here and now. In business, in school, in relationships, in interactions at the gas station or grocery store, on social media (dear Lord, definitely on social media), the way we act, speak, and type are all opportunities to practice Kingdom living, to prepare for Kingdom living, to promote Kingdom living.
Recently I rewatched Karate Kid (the original) with my kids. It is a classic…I mean some parts are laughable, but overall great. Spoiler alert…I hate to give away a great moment in a 35 year old movie, but I must…Daniel wants to learn karate from Mr. Miyagi so he tells him to come and work for him. He does not learn karate but is forced to do manual labor for Mr Miyagi in a very particular way. Sanding, painting, washing and waxing. It is maddening for Daniel and for us as the viewer. It is only when he understands why, does he have a true appreciation for what he had to do. He was doing the motions that would be the way of karate. He was learning the awkward but vital movements that were necessary to be successful. He was putting in the reps to be able to do karate. Then when he actually started to learn karate, he already knew what he was doing.
We are putting in the reps to live like citizens of the kingdom. We are going through the motions that will be the ways of the kingdom. We are learning the awkward but vital movements that are necessary to the life of a person in the Kingdom. We are doing things that don’t seem to make sense in this world, but when we understand why, we have a new appreciation to live in a new way here and now.
So when you think about the Kingdom…when you think about what is next…don’t think it is some far off idea, but it is a reality you get to be a part of here and now, because the Kingdom of God is nearer than you think.