When is the Kingdom of our God? Easy enough question: Thy Kingdom Come means it is not here now. So, when is this Kingdom? In Paradise, the distant and perfect future? In the Garden of Eden, the distant and perfect past? All of these times are too far off. He is much nearer. For the real question is not,
When is the Kingdom of God? but rather,
When is He in charge? He is our King when we accept and follow His Covenant, His contract of grace and gratitude. That is what Eden was, that is what Paradise will be: His contract in force, His peace treaty with us ratified, His mercy generating our lives of gratitude and respect.
Scripture is clear about this agreement. He graciously saves us and redeems us, leading us out of slavery, and we, for our part, obey His law. The Ten Commands are very specific. The Sermon on the Mount clearly lays out our obligations and responsibilities. The Law of Love, to love God and our neighbor, expands our opportunities to show how thankful we are for His mercy.
Notice that His Kingdom is a moral order, not an order of power. It begins with the simple acts of daily and family life, involves the most local of our communities, and only becomes national or cosmic as the economy of individual moral choices consolidates. The Kingdom of God is like a marketplace, where the price of a pencil is freely set without a central authority and without specific knowledge of the price of wood, graphite, brass, rubber, transport, merchandising, or labor. So also His Kingdom is invisible to the national media and in the halls of power, even though it underlies and shapes everything around it. A nation cannot make good people but good people can make a good nation. Again, not by power or majorities or fads or popularities, but by the informal and natural combination of tiny acts of charity into a society of love. The Kingdom of God is not found in temples, cathedrals, congresses, palaces, or white houses, unless it is first found in kitchens, workplaces, back fences, church pews, and individual lives.
Therefore, to be in the Kingdom of God, to help it come to us and all mankind, we first engage directly with our neighbor, our family, our congregation, our fellow workers and give them all the love He has first given us. We will not ignore the political rulers and the elite powers, but rather we do not count on them to do our work of love. The Kingdom of God is a retail operation, not wholesale. It is a voluntary arrangement, not a tyranny of compulsion and control.
This is much too hard. Have you any idea how many billions of acts of charity between neighbors it takes to make a society charitable? We may have to give and give and give and never live to see it do any good on a global scale, even a local scale for all of that. It is so much easier to let somebody else do good for us. There are certainly many ways the world promises to bring the Kingdom of God, or at least the secular version of it. Governments are always promising to fix the evils of our times, medicine promises all but eternal life, religions certainly claim to hold the secret to Paradise, ideologies pretend to create a perfect world of equality or prosperity or whatever rings our bells, and even businesses offer products and services that will make us happy. Why not believe them? Why not give our trust to the prince or the pope and let them make us better people? Why not give up our freedom and responsibility so that those better than us can fix everything? Trusting in any other way but the Sermon on the Mount and individual acts of charity to bring about the Kingdom of God is to believe in magic, to trust in charlatans, to replace the Word of our God with an incantation to Satan.
The way the world works is this: exchange tyrants but keep the system of power they control. It is a change in kingship without a change in kingdom. But the Kingdom of our God is different. When He becomes king He changes the Kingdom. He replaces force and fear with grace and gratitude, He replaces not only the tyrants of the world but their very way of doing business. Aristocracy is the rule of the elites, theocracy is the rule of a god. In both cases rule means force and power from on high. But the Kingdom of our God is a covenant, a contract He offers us and that we are free to accept or reject. We are volunteers in this army, not draftees, and that is the source of our combat readiness. He exchanges, not only the kingship, but very nature of kingship itself.
This is His promise, that
Wherever two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them. In another place He said,
The Kingdom of heaven is among you. Other gods stick to their temples or hide far off in heaven, other tyrants keep out of crowds. But our Abba is at our supper table, sitting in the pews with us, in the Book we read in church, in our conversations with our neighbor in His Name.
My Kingdom is not of this world.He said to Pilate. No, it sure isn't! We could translate it,
My Kingdom is not this world's kingdom.But it is IN this world, right with us wherever we go in His Name and whenever we behave as He approves.
The Kingdom of God is not then, not later, but near, right around the corner, among us as we speak. This day we are citizens of His eternal nation. We may want to wait, but He does not wait, His Kingdom is come NOW!
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