I think she’s on to something.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time reading the gospels before you realise the gap between Jesus and His listeners was gigantic. Take, for instance, the extraordinary discussion in John 6:24-66. The escalating tension almost jumps off the page and punches us in the face. How dare He tell them to eat His flesh and drink His blood! Who did He think they were, godless barbarians? And insisting He’d come from Heaven when everyone knew His parents were a local carpenter and his wife?
What on earth was this ridiculous talk of ‘feeding’ on Him? Was He mad? All they wanted was some kind of miracle to prove He was no ordinary man, possibly even the Messiah, and they’d be satisfied. Then they’d believe whatever He wanted them to believe. Even more so if He could repeat what He’d done just the previous day and provide free food, like Moses had done for Israel in the wilderness. Simple. Just show us the bread Jesus, and we’ll follow you anywhere. What was His problem?
But now He was pointing to Himself, saying ‘this is the Bread”. And if they would eat and drink His flesh and blood they could live forever. This was not the King they’d waited for after all, just another of those crazy prophets who never made any sense, or worse still a demoniac. And anyone who followed him might well be thought mad as well.
They were offended, big time – offended by this self-styled King and His questionable Kingdom. How could someone who spoke the same language as they did make such little sense? No, they would not follow this madman into the insanity of His so called Kingdom. So – a crowd of them walked away profoundly disappointed, presumably to continue awaiting the arrival of the true King of Israel.
So, what, exactly is this Kingdom of God that so polarises people? Is it now, is it future, or is it both? Is it a place, or is it a Presence? Can we hasten its appearance on earth, or not?
This post doesn’t set out to answer every question ever asked about the Kingdom: that would take a volume. But hopefully it may provide some basic perspectives on Kingdom life that will encourage each of us to dig deeper.
So let’s start with how the Kingdom looks in this world.
As we’ve seen, to world dwellers the Kingdom of God looks like it’s located somewhere between eccentric and insane. Consequently, world dwellers frequently find Kingdom dwellers and their King offensive in a way they can’t quite put their finger on. Put simply, the world is fundamentally opposed to the Kingdom of God, does not recognise the authority of its King and considers all Kingdom dwellers delusional or worse.
Who can blame them? Kingdom dwellers talk about a Kingdom that’s invisible and pledge allegiance to a King who died in shame and agony who they say will return. Let’s face it, without the convicting agency of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible for any of us to even see the Kingdom, let alone enter it (John 3:3-5).
This Kingdom’s King is unpredictable, with little regard for what passes as normal in this world. He has been known to fashion a whip to terrorise innocent shopkeepers. He claims to be the Son of God yet refuses to call legions of militant angels to save Him from execution. He says He rules a Kingdom but voluntarily acts like a slave and washes men’s dirty, smelly feet.
He says God is His Father but lets lawbreakers off without punishment. He pays no respect to age-old traditions and seems to go out of His way to aggravate influential people. His followers have been known to sing and rejoice when thrown into the darkest of prisons, forgive those bent on killing them and weep and pray for their oppressors.
Some who seek the Kingdom wrongly believe they need to prove to the world the Kingdom exists. Some of them even think doing so is their life call. Other wiser Kingdom dwellers, knowing the Kingdom is about power more than words, prefer to demonstrate, not debate, the Kingdom.
So what is the Kingdom about then?
The Kingdom’s purpose is to manifest and rule on the earth under the authority of the King. To this end the Kingdom is currently at war, but not with the world dwellers.
Jesus came leading a Love invasion into the everyday realm of human beings, and brought His Kingdom with Him. That Love invasion triggered a massive escalation in a spiritual conflict that existed before the creation of humanity. This conflict reaches into and manifests in all aspects of earthly life. It is presently raging more than at any time in history and will increase in even more intensity before King Jesus arrives to take up His earthly throne.
Wait, but the Kingdom is peaceful isn’t it? Yes and no. The Kingdom brings peace, but advances with force (Matt. 11:12). The force with which the Kingdom advances is neither military nor political. It is a divine, spiritual force that cannot be discerned by world dwellers.
Some believers wrongly believe they need to protect themselves and their families from the world. They build fortress like temples as bastions to keep out the world dwellers, who they suppose always prefer sin to holiness. Some think these fortresses are the Kingdom, but the Kingdom isn’t found within man-made walls, it is found within the Kingdom dwellers. In reality it’s the Kingdom that’s on the offensive and the world that’s retreating.
The world does not invade the Kingdom – the Kingdom invades the world.
Sincere Kingdom dwellers refuse to be confined inside fortresses, but follow their King out of the temple onto the battlefields of humanity. The battlefields are the streets, the cities, the fields, the houses, the meeting places, and the darkest places of the world. With them they bring the Love of the King, for which the world has no defence.
So how does the Kingdom advance?
Conflict involves weapons. The weapons the world uses to oppose the Kingdom include hate, deception, lust, confusion, accusation, unbelief, betrayal, violence, humanism, corruption, and human centred religion.
The world system is a spiritual entity that hates the Kingdom, despises its King and seeks to destroy all that the Kingdom represents. Those who dwell in the world system are slaves to it, but have been seduced into believing they are free and that the King wants to take away their freedom. Consequently the world and its dwellers hate, mock, persecute, harass, humiliate, imprison and kill Kingdom dwellers relentlessly. This spiritually motivated malevolence toward Kingdom dwellers will only increase until the King returns bodily to this realm to enforce His Kingdom’s rule in every corner of the earth.
The weapons of Kingdom dwellers, however, are forged by the Spirit of God. The King taught His citizens that the Kingdom can never take ground by using the same weapons as the world. He demonstrated a higher, more perfect kind of warfare and trains His kingdom dwellers in wielding spiritual, not man-made, weapons. These include faith and its twin, faithfulness, as well as humility, prayer, and the greatest weapon of all, Love.
The greatest evidence that the Kingdom is advancing on the earth is the presence of Kingdom Love. Wherever the Love of Christ is seen and experienced, even for a moment, His Kingdom is breaking through and the world is in retreat.
So surely this Kingdom must have some laws, otherwise how would it operate effectively?
There is just one law needed in the Kingdom of God. It is called the Law of the Spirit and it is known as Love. This law is administered by the Holy Spirit, who infuses Kingdom dwellers with the Love of Christ. Kingdom dwellers love all who the King loves.
This unearthly Love cannot be measured, nor can it be divided. It does, however, take most Kingdom dwellers a while to get the hang of it. But like riding a bicycle, once they learn how to lose themselves in this Love, they never forget. Even then, it’s not so much an achievement as it is an immersion. The deeper Kingdom dwellers immerse themselves into the Love of Christ, the deeper they love and the better they demonstrate the Kingdom.
Well there it is, my concise guide to the Kingdom. This Kingdom is indeed an unconventional place to live. From the outside looking in it appears to be madness. But from the inside it looks like Christ the King.
Perhaps you have some thoughts to share on the Kingdom of God? If so, I’d be happy to hear them….just leave them in the comment box at the bottom of this post.
Oh, and one last thing I should probably add about this mysterious, insane Kingdom:
The King wins.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.