Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Kingdom of God: in it together?    (11/6/2011 )

We often talk to God quietly, away from others (in fact, Jesus said to do so). Each person seems to have a different, and indescribable, relationship with him. Sometimes our prayers are things we could never say aloud to anyone. It would be easy to think it was just ‘me and God’.

But that’s not what a kingdom is, is it? In a kingdom, there are many people—all closely connected and answerable to one king. Kingdom subjects live alongside one another, work and socialise together, in one place.

When Jesus talked to his disciples and others about the Kingdom being ‘near’, he probably meant that wherever he went, there the Kingdom of God was also. But I wonder if he was also pointing to all the other people—those already inside the Kingdom and those at the gates, wanting to get in?

God is a god of community and relationship. God himself, as hard as it can be to grasp, is already in relationship: in the persons of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We know that there is a heavenly community of angels. We know that Jesus had a team with him wherever he went; his disciples and other followers. People are not intended to function alone. As St Paul said, “Do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.”

With togetherness comes responsibility. At the very beginning of the Bible, God asks Cain where his brother is (God knew perfectly well where Abel was, and had a good reason for asking), but the sub-text is that Can should be aware of his brother’s whereabouts. When Cain said, ‘I don’t  know, am I my brother’s keeper?’ he was rejecting the whole idea of responsibility—towards even his close family.

We all have a responsibility towards others, even our enemies (even—and especially—those who are different from us), as we see in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus also said that, since everyone loves those who love them, that’s really nothing unusual. The trick is to love those who hate you. How difficult that is! But he did say it wasn’t necessarily easy to enter the kingdom of God… you have to reject the values of the world, and start living Kingdom values.

So how do we do that? Well, we do it in response to what God has already done for us through Jesus, and we do it with God’s grace and help (he wants to help us!) And there is a very important verse in the Bible which helps. Jesus descibes who will be permitted to enter the Kingdom one day, and says to those who aren’t ‘near’ the Kingdom:

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

Shocked, they ask, “Lord, when did we do that?” and Jesus responds:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”

So that is a big part of our answer. Care for those around us; treat them as if they were Jesus Christ himself. Put others’ needs above our own. Then we can hope to be citizens of heaven together.

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