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I grew up hearing about the Kingdom of God—or the Kingdom of Heaven—but only in recent years have I come to understand that those terms refer not so much to a place as to a vision. The Kingdom of God is life as God envisioned it when the world was created. The trademarks of this life are peace, justice, beauty, and love. When we pray that God’s kingdom come and will be done “on earth as in heaven,” we are agreeing with God about the way things should be. We are saying yes to the transformation of life here on earth to match that original vision. The kingdom of God is you and me becoming what we were created to be all along.
If we Christians don’t go about our lives with this vision always in front of us, our way of seeing will become distorted by discouragement, self-interest, fear, and prejudice. In other words, my ideal world—if not informed by the Divine vision—will likely revolve around my own comfort and happiness. There’s nothing wrong with my being happy and pain-free, but if that is the primary aim of my life, I will overlook much of what the kingdom of God is really about—such as advocating for the poor and opposing violence in all its forms. Jesus said that if we try to hold onto our life, we’ll lose it, and I think he was talking about the wrong focus—the faulty vision—that turns us into people who are fearful and grasping. In God’s kingdom, people are open and generous. In God’s kingdom, we recognize that all belong to the same community, in which each person looks after the interests of the other.
If you want to know what your vision is, then ask yourself, “What deep motivation determines how I make decisions?” Do I live in self-defense, just trying to survive and protect myself from harm and trouble? Is my guiding vision a world in which everyone is a lot like me—in their political opinions, their personal habits, and their regular activities? Would my kingdom of God be a world in which I—or the group of people I associate with—got to determine the rules for everyone else, to impose on society an order my group found right and reassuring?
I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent and charitable person. But I’m not qualified to create the perfect world. I might have good intentions, but my best version of the kingdom of God would shortchange someone and cause grave imbalance. That’s why I choose to embrace God’s vision. That’s the vision Jesus lived with each encounter. His vision saw every person as a neighbor and every sinner as a lost child of God who needed help getting home.
Let’s spend some time this week considering what Jesus meant when he prayed that God’s kingdom created here on earth look like the community already existing in heaven. Let’s pray that this heavenly vision be formed in our own minds and hearts.
For the exercise this week, I’m using the questions from chapter 4 of Heroic Living, “Where Will You Lead Us.” You can read the entire chapter here (if you are reading this via email you can find the chapter link on my blog):
What expressions of vision do you find within your faith tradition, from your family, at work, or from other sources that have shaped your worldview?
Are any of those visionary words alive to you, and if so, how do they influence the way you live?
I invite you to post your comments and questions and I will respond throughout the week. If you want to read more from Heroic Living please take advantage of the special price of only $15 (details at right) for readers of this blog during the month of August (if you are reading this via email you can view details on my blog).