Kingdom. That's one of those words for us Americans that we only really use in spiritual terms these days. We have little understanding of how actual kingdoms work except to believe that they are not democracies, so probably not good.
Except where God is concerned. I mean, after all, the Bible talks a lot--especially Jesus--about God's kingdom or the kingdom of heaven. So when I say my mission is to stimulate redemptive living and kingdom investment, what does that word kingdom mean?
Let me first say that the two authors I'd most highly recommend on this topic are Dallas Willard and Shane Claiborne, specifically Willard's The Divine Conspiracy and Claiborne's Jesus for President. Both are excellent and challenging treatments of the idea. (side note, I'm looking forward to meeting Shane for the first time in person in a few weeks at our No Need Among You conference in Waco, see nnay.org for info).
So at the risk of writing a whole book, let me share a few short ideas about my understanding of what the kingdom of God is about. If I get too long-winded, I'll stop and pick it up in the next blog. There's a lot to say.
First, kingdom is about a King. That probably should go without saying, but alas, it doesn't. There is a King. I'm not him, although the truth be told, I act like it much of the time. We all do. Our allegiances are sometimes divided. Who is your king? Please ponder the question a little, because if Facebook is any indication, many who claim Jesus as King sure promote some un-Jesus-like stuff...living in the kingdom means our allegiance to Jesus is above all other things (see Colossians for some good theology on this): above country, above job, above sports team, above family, above everything. Above all powers of any kind. Is Jesus your King? Are you living as the King would have you live?
Second, the kingdom as it currently exists is a "not yet" kingdom. We live in middle-earth, somewhere between the innocence of sinlessness in the Garden of Eden, and the redemption into sinlessness that will come when there's a new heaven/earth/creation. Jesus launched the kingdom in a new way, but the fullness of it won't be here until he's back. So we are new creations, but still battle the "flesh." We (by faith) are seated with Christ in heavenly places but we're physically still here (see Colossians 3).
Third, for whatever reason, God has chosen to partner with us to make the current "not yet" more like the "someday will be". We pray it in the prayer Jesus taught: "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." This is our primary task: discipling people on how to live in God's kingdom now.
Finally, let me throw in one last point. It's not a key point in the defining of "kingdom" per se, but it is one powerful core value of the kingdom that I think of when I see the word in my mission statement. One of the core markers of the kingdom is cultural diversity. When the "not yet" becomes reality, there will be every tribe, tongue, people and nation gathered in a multicultural worship service like no other. I plan to write about this in more detail soon, but the basic summary is this: no earthly culture has it all right (or all wrong, for that matter). We need to be multicultural people to live in a multicultural kingdom. We need to learn other languages, other practices, other understandings of God's kingdom. Our churches need to stop being bastions of cultural protection and become places where cultural diversity is valued and practiced and lived out in grace.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand.