- Mark 12: 32-34
I had stepped out with the children as our minister began to speak. We slipped back in a few minutes later, just in time to hear the familiar three-part covenant refrain: Knowledge of God leads to knowledge of our identity in Him leads to love-born obedience to His commands.
When our identities are shaped by our understanding of God as Father and ourselves as His children, we desire to obey Him, for "if you love me, keep my commands." And what is that obedience? To love God with your entire being and to love others as yourself.
All of this I've know. Familiar words, long-discussed ideas. But then came that jewel, that moment of clarity when multiple ideas come together and form something greater, a bigger picture, more complete understanding.
(And here I wish I'd written it down, wish I could express it as eloquently as I heard it in that moment.)
After the scribe correctly summarized the greatest commandment, Jesus told him that he was not far from the Kingdom of God. It was his understanding of love - love for God, love for others - that had brought him near, for who is God Himself if not Love? And what is His Kingdom if not a Kingdom of Love?
We pray in the Lord's prayer for His will to be done, and we find that His will is that we love God and love others. We pray for His Kingdom to come, and here we find that it is this love for God and others that brings us near to it.
N. T. Wright describes the gradual coming of God's Kingdom with his usual beauty and wisdom:
"The earliest Christians believed, in fact, that resurrection was what every human being really needed — not just in the end, in the new world that God will eventually make, but in the present life as well. God intends, in the end, to give us a new life, in comparison with which the present one is a mere thing of shadows. He intends to give us new life within his ultimate new creation. But the new creation has already begun with the resurrection of Jesus, and God wants us to wake up now, in the present time, to the new reality. We are to come through death and out the other side into a new sort of life; to become daytime people, even though the rest of the world isn't yet awake. We are to live in the present darkness by the light of Christ, so that when the sun comes up at last we will be ready for it. Or, to change the image, we are already to be penciling the sketches for the masterpiece that God will one day call us to help him paint. That's what it means to respond to the call of the Christian gospel."
The coming of the Kingdom of God on earth began with Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension. It will be made complete one day. In the meantime, it is the work of the Church to walk towards His Kingdom in the world. This Kingdom work is simply to love. That is what we mean when we say "thy kingdom come" - help us to love God and love each other more perfectly.
This, for me, is the most hope-filled image of the Kingdom of God.
Not vengeance - May your Kingdom come that the wicked would receive what's coming to them!
Not ease of life - May your Kingdom come that I would be free from this burden!
Not happiness - May your Kingdom come that sadness would be no more!
Not reunions with lost loved ones - May your Kingdom come that I would be with him again!
But Love. Love at its purest, Love in its fullest, Love at its most complete. All of our deepest longings are bound up in that love - justice and mercy, freedom from sickness and pain, complete release from the bondage of sin, deepest relationship, perfect beauty, all of it. Love encompasses it all, perfects it all, draws it all together into something greater.
Love is both the goal and the method, both what we are to work toward and how we are to do it. Love is what we are to reflect and how we are to live as we walk towards this Kingdom, not waiting idly but actively heading in that direction, committed participants (through His authority and power) in this work of God.
We cannot eat and drink the body and blood of the passionate and compassionate God today,
and then refuse to live passionately and compassionately tomorrow.
If we say or sing, as we so often do, 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit',
we thereby commit ourselves, in love, to the work of making his love known to the world that still stands so sorely in need of it."
― N.T. Wright
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