By: Staci Stallings
The Kingdom of God
For a moment, let’s take a look at what is meant by “The Kingdom of God.” If you’re like me, you’ve heard this phrase many times. You may think as many Bible translations relate it that this equates to “the Kingdom of Heaven.” While heaven is most definitely God’s Kingdom, we tend to think of heaven as a place we will get to “someday” when we die.
Heaven is to many of us a faraway place where the angels sing “Hallelujah” rounds while playing harps, and the saints stand on cloud-risers in white robes adding in the harmonies. The problem with this belief is that it holds out a prize “someday” for our behavior today. In other words, it is much like a God-bribe: “You serve me today, and tomorrow, I will give you this.”
There’s a problem with that thinking, however. First, not many of us are good at thinking long-term—as in eternity long. We are much more concerned with this month’s bills and tomorrow’s test. That’s not a bad thing. It is just reality.
The problem is when we try to force ourselves into eternity-term thinking when dealing with immediate problems. The two don’t seem to equate, and so we dismiss the eternity for the immediate. However, we would not do this if we truly understood the term “The Kingdom of God.”
In teaching fourth grade Sunday School, I have been given an incredible blessing—the chance to go back and relearn about God on the level that explains what many phrases and terms mean. This includes the term “the Kingdom of God.”
According to the We Believe text, “the Kingdom of God” means: the power of God’s love active in the world.
The power of God’s love active in the world.
That doesn’t mean someday in heaven—that means right here, right now. Plus, it does not speak of a passive kind of love. It is not a noun kind of love as in, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” While these are true, they become more dynamic when we realize that God’s type of love is an active, moving verb kind of love.
To say, “I love you” is nice, but when you do things to show you love the person, “love” becomes a verb. The Kingdom of God, the active love of God in our world, is just such a verb. It is the love that brings a casserole to an ailing family. It is the love that holds a child who has been hurt. It is the love that drives a person to help even if helping is difficult, dangerous, or inconvenient.
Active love, or more specifically, God’s active love can and does change our world where it is tried. See for example Mother Theresa of Calcutta. She was teaching in a fairly rich neighborhood when one day her focus shifted to the poor and dying in the streets. God’s love active in the world came into her being, and she realized that she could not depend on someone else to do what God was asking her to do—to love those poor and dying. She, thus, devoted her life to loving them by helping to give them dignity even in dying.
Now, for a moment contemplate this story. Mother Theresa surely did not think that she would solve this problem of the poor and dying of her own will and effort. She did not dedicate her life to helping these people on her own strength. If she had, she surely would have at some point given up the whole idea. It was too overwhelming. It was dirty. It was riddled with disease and horrors. It was no doubt emotionally and physically draining. And ultimately, even after all of her effort, there are still poor and dying people on the streets of Calcutta. For Mother Theresa to try to bring the Kingdom of God into the world on her own, she would have had to be superhuman, and this is where we make our greatest mistake.
Coming tomorrow: Trying to Do it On Your Own.