We continue our series on…
The A- Z of the Christian Faith
K is for the Kingdom.
The last letter was J for Jesus. We looked at his life, death and resurrection, and what we believe about him – why we call him the Son of God. His actions (especially healings and other miracles), his relationships, and his teaching make up his life. This month, when we come to the Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven, it is Jesus’ teaching that we are looking at.
Jesus described, especially in his parables, or stories, what God’s reign is like – very often comparing it to a very different set up among earthly rulers. So, he compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed and to yeast hidden in bread (Luke 13: 18-21). Each is tiny, and when buried in the ground or in dough, is powerful for growth and transformation.
In Matthew 22, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a marriage feast – the invited guests all fail to come, and people are brought in off the streets to replace them. So the Kingdom is about unexpected people being welcomed to God’s bounty, and the expected people being outside it. Jesus often turned things on their head. “The last shall be first” “The first shall be last.” This part of his teaching often upset the people who took God for granted, but delighted those who never expected to be God’s beloved. It still has that effect today, when people really listen to what he says.
In the Kingdom of God, all
notions of ‘importance’ that
people are used to are swept away. In Matthew 18: 1-4 Jesus says this and there
are other passages like it:
At that time the disciples
came to Jesus saying ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’ and
calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly I say
to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the
Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest
in the Kingdom of heaven!
God humbled himself to become a human being, and pride has always been considered as the chief of sins, because a God-fearing person knows their need of God, and knows their faults and their need of forgiveness. So, the way God rules is sometimes through very small hidden things. It is sometimes (often) an unexpected way – first last, top sent to bottom, greatest made least, and so on. Money, importance, power, strength, size, and age – none of these give entry to the Kingdom. . The way we run the world does not correspond to divine values, does it?
Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God being ‘within us’. He speaks of its ‘arrival’ when he encounters people. He says to someone, ‘You are not far form the Kingdom of God.’ That’s a big clue. All these stories and sayings are Jesus telling us the Divine Vision for humanity, hoping we will see what he means. God is like this – don’t make him in your own image. He is more generous, forgiving, joyous, merciful, imaginative etc etc than any human being, or like anything we are familiar with.
Jesus also speaks of the Kingdom of God as our destination, if only we will respond. We can catch it now, enter into its values (be a Christian) but he promises that one day the rule of man will end, and the promised Kingdom will take over.
Imperfect as we are, we can only take in a few of the things Jesus revealed about the Kingdom.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like
treasure hidden in a field….
The Kingdom of heaven is like
a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value,
went and sold all that he had and bought it.” [Matthew13: 44-46]
Entering into the kingdom can happen in a moment, or it can take a lifetime. It can be a sudden gift from God, or it can be a hard and sacrificial journey of years – but it is priceless.
I cannot give you a definition of the Kingdom, or tell you exactly how to get in. Jesus (God) doesn’t give definitions or precise rules and instructions. Maddening, isn’t it? All I know is that if we want God, want to love him, and try to hear what Jesus tells us, then we will be on the way. If we think we’re already there and know exactly what the entrance requirements are to the Kingdom, then we are in a different Kingdom – not God’s, certainly.
Humility is essential, it seems.