I am reading/studying/digesting Matthew in my own personal time with God and also with my church small group. So far I have been entrenched in this gospel for almost a year and I’m still going back over things, reading new things…there is a lot still left to cover. The basic question that I keep coming back to is: When and where is the kingdom of God that Jesus constantly talks about to take place? This seems to be the key question in Christian debate, whether or not the two sides recognize it.
On one side I see the “conservatives” (term used very loosely) who envision a future kingdom: Jesus will return and rule and put everything right. So this mindset leads to certain actions. If we are looking for a future kingdom, several things follow. And keep in mind I’m generalizing a lot:
- This world is always going to be messed up. There’s really no use in trying to fix it.
- The most important thing in life is whose side we will be on in the future kingdom. Will we be with Jesus or with Satan?
- If the world is messed up and the future kingdom is what matters, we will isolate ourselves to prevent the world from influencing us. It won’t matter how we use resources because the world is expendable.
- Spiritual life becomes very important.
On the other side I see the “liberals” (another very loose term) who envision a kingdom here and now: Jesus was promising a life of freedom, peace, love, and justice for those living. Now, I find myself siding more with the “liberals” because I see the need for such a kingdom. I also see a Jesus in scripture who is talking about these issues: justice for the poor, hope for the needy, life for the dead. But I’m trying to be unbiased and I think this mindset can lead to certain actions, some which might not be so positive:
- Extreme concern for the poor and needy, to the point of putting physical need before spiritual need.
- This world has the potential to be made good.
- We promote relationships and community.
- Physical life becomes very important.
It seems like almost every time I pick up the Bible I am confronted by these two mindsets. I see a later kingdom at times and a now kingdom at others. Sometimes I read Jesus saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
And other times I read Him saying:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
This is something I feel that I must wrestle with (and especially look at what scripture has to say) because the answer defines our lifestyle. If Jesus is truly promising a kingdom now, then every action of the way we live becomes a part of building or destroying that kingdom. If we are looking only for a future kingdom, then…well, I’m not sure how to live. I suppose it means making evangelism our primary focus all the time. Personally, I think that both kingdoms exist. Jesus promised that we could enter the kingdom of God while we are still here on earth and that that choice has personal, spiritual and physical results. Also, He promises that at the end of time He will return and build a political kingdom. I know that I will probably never come to the answer, but I want to make sure that the way I have chosen to live my life is following after the way of Jesus.