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Today: 30 January 2015


The Kingdom of God: Can you belong?

First published 25 Jan 2015

I was once invited to a famous London club—the kind of place where politicians and other powerful people relax over good food and drink, in comfortable surroundings.

We had an excellent (and no doubt expensive) meal, and a good chat, but I’ve never been back. For one thing, I’m not a member. For another, I’ve never been invited since.

In fact, briefly enjoyable though it was, I knew I didn’t belong. I was never going to be a member; I would never fit in.

There are other places where I do feel I belong: at home, obviously; in meetings and social gatherings I go to regularly; and in church—because it’s been such a large part of most of my life.

So I become a little uncomfortable that Jesus says very little about church, but a very great deal about the Kingdom. Belonging to church is relatively easy… but belonging to the Kingdom?

There don’t seem to be any easy formulas in Jesus’ teaching here. In fact, he seems almost deliberately obscure at times. The Kingdom is a fuzzy kind of place—where God rules, things are done God’s way, and where many things we take for granted are turned on their heads:

  • There’s children, for instance. “The Kingdom belongs to people like that,” Jesus says. So children must have something the rest of us have missed.
  • There are rich people, who are going to find it extremely hard to get in—the very opposite of the London club!
  • There are people who just get on with being kind and generous. In one story Jesus told it seems that some people like that are going to be very surprised to find they’re in the Kingdom because of what they’ve done, unconsciously, for Jesus.
  • The Kingdom is not just a place for who we’d call ‘the good’, either. Jesus says some outcasts, like prostitutes, are going to be first in line because some of them listened to the message and believed.

The picture Jesus paints is of a new kind of world, to which he is the door or the way in. To get through this door requires our turning in the right direction and trusting in him, or as Mark [NT] chapter 1, verse 15 records it, “Repent and believe the good news!” So doing good alone may not, in fact, be enough.

Perhaps passages like this challenge us to think twice about people we might write off. For all we know, they may have a place in God’s Kingdom even though not in our social circle.

And for those who aren’t sure they belong anywhere, here is a promise that a welcome awaits all who will come, under God’s umbrella.

And for all of us there is the invitation to come into the Kingdom and belong—in repentance, humility and trust. Next week, we start to look at how to live the values of the Kingdom; the way God intended all along.

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Pray: Lord, help me to see how your Kingdom challenges so many of our conventions and opens up all sorts of new possibilities.  Help me to turn to you, to trust you and to accept your rule, becoming with your help a member of the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Think about: The Kingdom of God is a place, a state, to live in all the time, and a place to be challenged all the time.  Are there challenges you are dodging?  Do you feel more and more at home under God’s rule as time goes on?

Challenge: Face one area of your life where God’s over-ruling would change your natural reactions—and take you one step nearer his Kingdom.

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