Monday 12 October 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (28/50) – His Proclamation of the Kingdom: The Lord Reigns

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the twenty-eighth of the fifty emails, this one written by Helen Parry.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
Mark 1:14-15

What was Jesus talking about? What is the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven (Jesus appears to have used the phrases interchangeably)? Is it present or future? Spiritual or temporal?

In fact, it is all of the above. All four uses of the phrase are implied in Jesus’ teaching. And in all four senses the kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus.

When God broke into human life, incarnating the eternal Word in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, a new era dawned. The impossible became possible. ‘The kingdom of God has come near’ (or ‘is at hand’), Jesus said, and ‘the kingdom of God is among you’.

The kingdom of God is essentially the rule of God. So whenever Jesus exercised the authority of God he was putting down a marker for the kingdom. ‘If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God,’ he argued, ‘then the kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Matthew 12:28). Such events were a foretaste of the victory that Jesus won over Satan by his death and resurrection, when, ‘having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’ (Colossians 2:15).

The final establishment of the kingdom, of course, awaits Jesus’ return, when ‘he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power’ (1 Corinthians 15:24).

So where does this leave us, living as we do between Jesus’ resurrection and his final triumph? To the extent that we allow Jesus to reign over our lives, to that extent the kingdom has come; and to the extent that we allow Jesus to reign in the Church, to that extent the kingdom has come. But it is also true that as we proclaim and live out the values of the kingdom, the values of the world are challenged, the boundaries of the kingdom of darkness are pushed back. We are, as Jesus said, ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).

Proclaim and live out – a double challenge. In an age desperately in need of values to live by, we are called to speak up for the values of the kingdom – for integrity, commitment, truthfulness and compassion. But we can all, also, submitting to Christ’s rule in our lives, live by these values, and even in the smallest way seek to change the culture of our workplaces or our community.

Helen Parry

For further reflection and action:

1. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). What might it mean for you, in your particular situation, to pray this prayer today?

2. As a citizen of the kingdom, an ambassador for Christ, where is your ‘front line’ (the place where you spend most of your time in an ordinary week)? How – at this point – can you seek to challenge prevailing attitudes and ways of doing things, and seek to recommend kingdom values?

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