My middle son, Tucker, used to love puzzles. Not the simple wood-cut baby puzzles, but a good 100+ piece puzzle that would take anyone at least an hour to complete – he was only 3! I remember once helping him with one that had him baffled and I have to admit that I, too, was stumped. Turns out, we were missing two or three significant pieces, which really kept us from getting the bigger picture.
Likewise, the “Kingdom of God”. Never mind that it’s the backdrop for the entirety of the whole Bible, mentioned no less that 140 times in the New Testament alone – we really don’t ‘get it’. That’s just to say, the church as a whole hasn’t really committed much time coming to terms with the Kingdom – in many ways, it’s the ‘missing piece’ that makes us miss the big picture of our faith.
So, what is the Kingdom of God? That’s the magic question, and may be why we don’t hear about it more – I don’t think any of us fully know. The Scriptures always speak of the Kingdom in metaphor – “the Kingdom of God is like…”. Those metaphors all unpack towards one conclusion: when the kingdom is present, earth is a little more like Heaven – God’s perfect will is brought to bear on our world.
Let’s starts at the most logical place – the beginning. According to the book of Genesis, we were created in the image of God. What does that mean? In ancient times – in Egypt and in the surrounding areas – Pharaohs and Emperors ruled huge territories. They didn’t have the capability of tele-conferences, news-print interviews, or even billboards to post his not-so-smiling face as a reminder for everyone of who was “Boss” – who owned it all, and who made the rules, and offered protection. So on every street corner – in front of important places of business, places where people gathers, high traffic areas – they would place an “image” of their ruler. Every time you saw the image of the Emperor it was to be as good as if the Emperor himself were standing there saying “This – this is MINE.” His image was a constant reminder of who he was, and who you were in relationship to him – a reminder of his expectations, and his promises. We were made in the image of God because we were created as markers of the Kingdom – a reminder to one another and all of creation that this is all His: we were created as signposts of God’s Kingdom rule.
This makes perfect sense of Jesus’ words “Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me”, because it’s true. Our actions – positive or negative – towards others, are actions towards God.
Maybe that is why Jesus approved of summarizing the whole of the law as this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Those aren’t separate commandments, but one – in order to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul, & strength, you must love your neighbor.
That’s the driving principal of God’s kingdom: love. Without it, the rest is meaningless. To live in God’s kingdom is to love. Let God’s love unify us where there is division now that this election is over.
Shannon Lewis is “The Worship Community Guy“. Passionate about helping others respond to God, & training people who are passionate about the same, Shannon also blogs at SaintLewisMusic, where you can grab his free eBook, UNSEASONED: How to see Godly Growth in an Inexperienced Worship Team.