The topic this week is an exploratory journey about the kingdom of God and its relevancy in our lives today. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven will be considered as the rule of God’s will in heaven and on earth. In Matthew 19:23-26, two names are used for the kingdom, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Scriptural passages provide an overview of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God came with Jesus as noted in Mark 1:14-15, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” In Romans 14:17-19, we find, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
In Luke 17: 20-21, Jesus answered the question about the kingdom, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” The lines from the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-10 make clear that the kingdom of God is everywhere, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus used his parables to introduce the kingdom of God. He said that the parables were the best way to teach people how to live and the way to serve God. Jesus explained that spiritual truths were not always easily understood, but in time people would understand the truths as explained in the following passages. “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:26-27) In Luke 13:20-21, Jesus told them in another parable. “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
The metaphors in these passages explain the way that kingdom of God will start in the heart of an individual who will then plant the seeds or add the yeast in the hearts of other people. Over time a community of believers would be committed to living a life of righteousness, love, compassion and mercy.
Understanding the kingdom of God is an important step to being a faithful follower of the lessons given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes and the parables. The righteousness taught by Jesus would draw people into the circle of the faithful.
As Paul believed, the church could play a role in the kingdom of God. If sitting in a church pew activates the need to open the church doors to go forth to grow the faith, then the church community will follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The need for the kingdom of God was important in biblical times and is important today. Living and growing the faith will help to overshadow the dark challenges of today.
For my final comments, I think that the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, was important in spreading the message of the kingdom of God. Tolstoy wrote “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” which was published in 1884. He concentrated on Jesus as a guide to all human interactions. He was a strong advocate of non-violence and believed that the work of Jesus was best suited in the world not in churches.
In 1908, Tolstoy wrote “A Letter to a Hindu,” which influenced Gandhi. Tolstoy supported the power of love, non-violence, and passive resistance as tools to challenge aggressive power. His ideas not only influenced Gandhi, but were also read and deemed important to the work of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker, and Martin Luther King Jr.
May the kingdom of God continue to work among the people each day!
Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.