What’s the Big Deal About the Kingdom?
Have you ever asked yourself that question? I’ve wondered about this for years but never felt like I got a satisfying answer. The gospels use the word kingdom so often it is hard to miss. “Jesus went through out Galilee… preaching the good news about the kingdom of God” (my paraphrase of Matt. 4:23, Matt 9:35 and Luke 4:43) Jesus’ parables often start out with: “The kingdom of God is like…” followed by a story like metaphor for some aspect of Jesus’ kingdom culture. We are exhorted to have “ears to hear” – as though there were a secret message hidden within his parable.
Dallas Willard was the first person that really helped me to understand the mystery of all this “kingdom” language through a lecture series called…wait for it, “The Kingdom of God Teaching Series”. Words like government, society, culture, or country convey the idea that Jesus is introducing through the word kingdom. One doesn’t have to travel very far to meet people from another country. Quickly we realize the differences in language, dress, mannerisms, food, entertainment; the list is endless.
Once we understand that Jesus is talking about his country, his culture; then we realize he is extending us a personal invitation. It’s as if he is saying, “Repent – rethink your thinking – for God’s country is right here” or, “Hey think about it, how is this life working for you? Why don’t you move to my country? The door is wide open but you will have to constantly be repenting – thinking it out again – because this is upside down, opposite everything you’ve come to expect. Do I have your attention now? Then join me in my kingdom enterprise.”
There’s no need to get all cleaned up or run to the post office and get a passport. Shockingly the door is open to anyone. Rather get ready for a mind altering, heart opening, soul cleansing experience. We’ll find we are more at home, all the while more confused then we’ve ever felt in our life. We die a thousand deaths only to be reborn again and again. We realize this kingdom is all around. It is available all the time, but we will have to learn to see it because it is an invisible reality. We find we are developing eyes that see and ears that hear.
When I first invited Jesus into my life I thought his job was to help me live my life as I became like him, but I was missing something. The realization that God’s kingdom is an invisible reality that I am continually being invited into changed my paradigm. I realized my job was to learn that language, that culture, that etiquette and the ways God’s country operates. It was like learning that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth but in fact the opposite was true. What a relief to not be the center of the story, instead I’m invited into another reality, the God life, and the larger story that is referred to by the simple but profound word – kingdom.