Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Thy Kingdom Come: What Kingdom?--Linden Malki
What does it take to make a Kingdom?
First, a King. By using "Thy Kingdom" in His prayer to the Father, Jesus is making it totally clear that God is the ultimate authority. In the Old Testament, the authority of God is usually seen in a political context; His people and their leaders are accountable to Him. But in the Gospels, the main theme of Jesus' preaching is the Kingdom of God. What does that look like?
A King exerts his authority over some kind of community; a King without subjects is a joke. Most kings initially acquire authority by conquest. The subjects have limited choice: acquiescence, exile, or rebellion. Jesus talked constantly about the Kingdom, but never by conquest. He was building a Kingdom by invitation! On one hand, He says "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12.32). St Paul told the Romans that "The Kingdom of God is not what you eat or drink [in the context of the Jewish law], but rightousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17).
On the other hand, there are requirements: to follow Him, to seek it first above all else (Luke 12:31); and to be reborn by water and the Spirit (John 3:5). In other words, this Kingdom does not merely require political allegience, but putting all that we are under His authority.
The Kingdom that Jesus preached confused many of his countrymen, who were hoping and praying for a Kingdom of God here and now, expecting the Old Testament conquest and power pattern. Matthew tells of Jesus preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. This takes the whole thing into a larger but less concrete form. Every kingdom anyone had ever experienced was defined by physical borders. So does this mean that the Kingdom is limited to a place called "Heaven", not on this earth?
Yes, it is obvious that there is an eternal Kingdom, directly ruled by God, that will have some kind of manifestation here at the final return of Jesus, as well as extending beyond anything we can comprehend now. But it isn't only "out there" waiting. Jesus kept saying that the Kingdom is somehow here, within, among us. He also describes it as being made up of the poor in spirit, the persecuted, spiritual children, those who seek and those who follow, growing like a seed underground and growing up to bear the fruits of the Spirit.