Jesus Is The Kingdom

Jesus went around announcing the Kingdom of God and showing through his actions what it looks like when the Kingdom was at hand. In story and deed, Jesus showed what it looks like when the Kingdom was at hand. The Kingdom is not detached from Jesus, but the very core reality of who Jesus is. Not so much a place as it is a way of living, an approach to life and a way of seeing and being in the world. The Kingdom is anywhere that the radical, countercultural way of life that Jesus embodied in his life, death, and resurrection is present.

The Gospels succinctly reveal what a Christian is—love everyone, serve enemies and pray for all. These things don’t come easy, yet they are the very things that Jesus did and calls us to do as his followers. Jesus doesn’t want mere pew sitters who sing hymns wonderfully one day a week only to spend the rest of the week doing whatever they want. He wants people who will live the heart of the Kingdom ceaselessly, people who will be transformed and follow.

Greg Boyd writes, “The heart of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of God. We are to be nothing less than ‘the body of Christ,’ which means, among other things, that we are to do exactly what Jesus did.  He came to redeem the world and ultimately overthrow the kingdom of the world by ushering in an alternative kingdom. He came not to give solutions, tweak external regulations, and enforce better behavior. He rather came to transform lives from the inside out winning people over to the reign of God’s sovereign love, rendering the “power over” tactics of the kingdom of the world unnecessary.”

The Kingdom is this: become as children, wash feet, and heal the enemy, love, service, and prayer. Jesus lived what he taught. Jesus gives us a way we can keep from being defined by those who act unjustly and begin embodying the way God sees us. The Kingdom is about living in God’s unconditional and relentless love and grace inviting others in as well.

We can contrast two kingdoms—the one of this world and God’s. A contrast of trust—the kingdom of the world trusts power of the sword while the Kingdom of God trusts the power of the cross.  A contrast of aims—the kingdom of the world seeks to control behavior while the Kingdom of God seeks to transform lives from the inside out. A contrast of scopes—the kingdom of the world is intrinsically tribal in nature while the Kingdom of God is intrinsically universal, centered on loving as God loves. A contrast of responses—the kingdom of the world is tit-for-tat while the Kingdom of God returns evil with good, turns the other cheek, goes the second mile, loves and prays for everyone including enemies. A contrast of battles—the kingdom of the world has earthly battles and fights earthly battles, while the Kingdom of God has no earthly enemies for its disciples are committed to loving their enemies treating them as friends and neighbors.

No matter how right we may be, without love, we are simply displaying a religious version of the world, not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is not about religion or outward appearances, but living in such a way that God is glorified by the love and grace we show. Jesus did away with religion so that we can live in relationship with God. It’s not about religion, not anymore, but relationship. We don’t have to earn our way in, God has adopted us into His family and invites us to live us redeemed, graced, and embraced people of God.

Cross or sword, which will you live by? You must choose. We all must.

To say that the Kingdom is at hand means that life, our daily life looks more and more like the life of Jesus that God is at work in our life. Even in the darkest times, God is with us. It means the world around is actively being blessed, saved, and graced. This can and does look different in different circumstances. In each of our lives, the presence of the Kingdom at God will differ. It could look like an addict getting better, a struggling student getting an A, a lonely person making a new friend, getting a good job after a long search, having lunch with an old friend, reconciling with someone, or getting over an illness, an accident prevented, making a stranger smile, a family dinner with no conflict. These are personal ways that the Kingdom is at hand. The Kingdom is a whole life presence. It is a revolutionary way of living not about getting but giving not about hoarding but sharing not about doing but becoming.

To offer love where there is hate, hope where there is despair, faith where there is doubt, and light to darkness means to live as Kingdom people in a broken world that wants to set the perimeters of how we live. Our world needs more of God and less of the usual stuff. To live like this is a way of subverting how life is normally lived becoming more a Christ-like, God-glorifying, humble human being.

We cannot do this on our own, but with God, what is impossible with man becomes possible.  God will not do for us what we can do on our own, but will give us the strength to align our life and faith more and more with the teachings and life of Jesus. With God, we can and we will love, hope, remain faithful, and bring light to darkness.

Here is one concrete example of the kingdom at hand—

98 year old Dobri Dobrev, a man who lost his hearing in the Second World War, walks 10 kilometers from his village in his homemade clothes and leather shoes to the City of Sofia, where he spends the day begging for money. A well-recognized fixture around, known for his prostrations of thanks to all donors, it was only recently discovered that he has donated every penny he has collected, over 40,000 euros — towards the restoration of decaying Bulgarian monasteries and the utility bills of orphanages, living entirely off his monthly state pension of 80 euros and the kindness of others.

God sent Jesus to rescue this world and all in it, so that we can live in the Kingdom now and later. Jesus enables us to live as Kingdom people in a broken world that is being renewed and restored. To live as a Jesus-follower, means not praying for escape from our life, but living a life of meaning and reverence embodying the Kingdom of God as Jesus did. It means living and loving in such a way that we astonish the world causing scandal in the world and joy in heaven.

Grace and Peace to all!

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