Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kingdom of God

Let's look together at "The Kingdom of God". This is a concept explored much in Scripture but we still don't have a handle on what it means in our daily life. Jesus says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." I admit that I have been quite interested in 'all these things' but not so much in 'His righteousness' for most of my life. But this also demonstrates my ignorance of what 'all these things' are, or at least their ultimate value.

Looking at the context of Jesus' words, we see that the temporal things were important to people. The people wanted food, shelter, clothing, those things Jesus calls 'additions' or non-essentials which are provided AFTER we search for His Kingdom. How do we get there? First is a recognition of the value of His Kingdom over the value of temporal things. The righteousness of God is infinitely more valuable than what we think we need every day, a good meal, a comfortable bed or even safety! What we can't comprehend is the eternal nature of the Kingdom of God. It does not consist of food, money or even power. It is a relationship based first on God's eternal, everlasting, profound love for us and then on our response to that love (a reciprocation, a reflection of God's love). This may be the essence of God's Kingdom.

The Kingdom is not defined by rules or standards, it is defined by a relationship. This goes completely against the normal flow and understanding in our society. Jesus puts it most clearly in the form of parables. In the parable of the workers in the field, the owner hires workers at different hours of the day. Each worker contributes different levels of effort and time but they are all paid the same. So the twist here is a new set of values: all of them agreed to work, all of them came to work, all of them completed the work they were contracted to do, all of them had a relationship with the owner of the field, so they all receive the same wage, a relationship to the owner of the field and a new understanding of how to live. The generous monetary payment is just extra, an addition to what is really necessary.

So what does it mean for me to be a member of the Kingdom of God? Certainly it requires no social status, no position of power or responsibility, no amount of wealth. It is not even following a set of rules or being a member of a group of people or a religious organization. So what is it? Jesus says, "If my kingdom were of this world...". So is there any overlap between the eternal and spiritual nature of God's Kingdom and our earthly existence? It appears that the connection exists in the direction our life takes. This brings us back to "seek ye first", a value that consumes my heart and mind and that carries over into every other area of my existence. I must desire God's Kingdom to the extent that it impacts my choice of a wife, my choice in entertainment, my choice of education and work, my choice of words, even my choice of thoughts. This seems like an impossible task, which in our fallen state it is! But the journey toward God's Kingdom begins at the cross of Jesus.

Literature teaches that conflict exists in 4 areas: against God, against self, against nature and against others. But the key to resolution is addressing our conflict with God first, then we are in a position to truly resolve each of the others. If we don't settle the conflict with God, we will never be able to resolve the other areas of conflict in our lives. So this search for the Kingdom of God is the beginning point of our search for global peace, our search for the end of class warfare, our search for resolution in marital conflict, even the search for self-worth and personal significance.

Which road leads to significance and value? In a careful study of history and humanity, it seems to be the road leading to the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the center of human history, the focus of the eternal time-continuum and the point of decision in every individual life. This is the great "crossroads" of life, taking the path toward God's Kingdom or away from God's Kingdom. I must come to a place of surrender, recognizing that my life has little significance in the scope of eternity unless I surrender my will, my hopes, my loves, my values to the purposes of the eternal God, the Creator and Sustainer of both the spiritual and the physical universe. I lose everything of true value in turning away from the cross of Jesus or I recognize the only thing of real value in surrender to Christ and the Kingdom of God at the cross.