When Christ arrived on the earth (despite so many prophecies), many at that time missed it. They were looking for a Messiah that would come and set up a kingdom on earth that put the Roman Empire out of business. They believed the kingdom would look more like the earthly kingdoms they had known. But during the years He walked the earth and taught them, He told them in parables and other teachings that it was quite different than they had imagined. Some began to see the truth, but others did not accept this as the true Messiah and King.
When Christ ascended into heaven following his resurrection, He left the disciples to lead and establish his kingdom here on earth. What a challenging task for this group and despite all odds against them, the survival of the church today gives testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit operating in them to bring about just that. But as we await his return, are we missing what it means to live out the kingdom as aliens in a fallen world?
The dictionary tells us what a kingdom is: “a country, state, or territory ruled by a king or queen”. The definition implies governance and political power, but what does that mean now when the King is not present on earth and yet we are to be building the kingdom that is not defined by geographical boundaries or the conventional things we know of kingdoms such as politics?
Eugene Peterson quotes Richard Neuhaus in Reversed Thunder for a description of politics:
“Politics reaches into dimensions of behavior and belief. The authority of government is exercised to maintain order, defined by civic and criminal law (otherwise there is babel). Most political systems ranging from family to empire, combine the elements of government and religion, as the Romans did. American democracy separates them. But combined or separate, the two elements are still there, parallel in their political importance.”Eugene Peterson quoting Richard Neuhaus
Eugene Peterson further points out the challenge in looking at politics and how the kingdom is defined that is that of Christ’s:
“Politics involves two elements: the exercise of ruling power and the means by which that power is exercised. People love to hear that God is powerful and that he rules; they are not as enthusiastic when they discover the means by which he exercises his ruling power.”Eugene Peterson
Albert Schweitzer saw what we may miss. The kingdom of God begins and sets forth its power and principles in each of our hearts. It is that simple, that complicated, and that which He most desires us to understand. Without that the kingdom of God He is returning to fully establish will not be ready for what his rule will look like when He reigns fully on earth.
Though we may well participate in the political system of this world and be called to do so as his representative, if the evidence of the Kingdom of God emanating from our hearts does not look like Him we have not understood the mission. We may be called to speak light into darkness, but our life must first reflect Him, before we seek to find words that do.
The challenge each day is to allow Christ to rule in our hearts (even in the attic, closets, and basement) so that we are wholly his and He can use us for his purposes. To do that we must keep straight the use of the word “kingdom” according to his design. We must understand how our words must be used with his wisdom and discernment and reflect Him.
“The political metaphor, “kingdom,” insists on a gospel that includes everything and everyone under the rule of God. God is no religious glow to warm a dark night. Christ is no esoteric truth with which to form a gnostic elite. The Christian faith is an out-in-the-open, strenuous, legislating, conquering totality. God is sovereign: nothing and no one is exempt from his rule.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
To have the kingdom of God ruling and reigning in our hearts we must attend to what He has told us is most vital – to love Him with all our heart, mind, and spirit and then to love others as He has taught and lived out for us to see. To do so means we must keep the whole of his Word affixed to our hearts so that it becomes engrafted there and guides each moment.
It will NEVER be easy, but what He calls us to He equips us to as we rely on the power, He has entrusted to us.