Defining the kingdom

Just the other day a dear friend asked, “So… how do you explain the Kingdom to someone who doesn’t understand?”  It’s an legitimate question that deserves an honest answer, since Jesus himself suggested that the “treasure in the field” would be incomprehensible to the unconverted, and missed by the masses. *

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In the aftermath of the American Civil War,  the government of the United States poured vast resources into the reconstruction of our southern cities, factories and communities, so that the devastated nation could rise from the ashes and begin again with fresh hope.  This is a picture of the Kingdom: a world restored to it’s original design.  It is the promised undoing of sin with all it’s catastrophic consequences.

In contrast to this vision of a restored world, today’s gospel often focuses simply on securing heaven in the life to come.  It posits that if I assent to a minimum set of beliefs about Jesus, and pray a sincere prayer, God will forgive me and welcome me into heaven when I die.  On a warm summer evening nearly forty-five years ago I prayed that prayer, and true to the promise I experienced an unearthly peace in knowing my soul was secure in Jesus.

But conversion is only the entrance. The Kingdom is much deeper and far-reaching than the assurance of heaven when I die; it is the promise of a God-filled life here-and-now in a world that is being restored to its intended glory. The Kingdom is that universal dream of a perfect world that flickers in each human heart: a world of peace, security, blessing, and order.

We who are yet alive have been invited into God’s genius plan of reconstruction; we have been called to love, serve, rebuild, and partner with our Father to see his world filled again with the glory of its original design.  For those who throw their lives into such a cause, eternity will follow as naturally as day follows night.

* John 3:3; Matthew 13:44

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