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They couldn’t get it right when he was walking in sandals right next to them, and we still struggle today.
I read a newsletter today that included the following sentence.
“It’s amazing to see how the Lord is using [this college]’s alumni to build His kingdom.”
Somehow that just opened my eyes to something I don’t think a lot of us see. This “kingdom” that is being referred to there is a visible, tangible, measurable kingdom. One of numbers, and results. One that you can point to and say, “Look at God building His Kingdom!” But what we’re really talking about is, “Look at how many people have made this decision, or changed this in their lives. Or, even better, look at our super-cool new facilities and our amazing staff who have a tremendous strategy for mobilizing our church for growth and outreach into our community!
Is that really God’s Kingdom? Do we really build his Kingdom? Really???
My mind says no. I am writing this after a brief search of scripture, but there are no New Testament verses containing both the words “build” and “kingdom”. The OT references were to the temple, “build” God’s house and establish Solomon’s “kingdom”. (2 Samuel 7:13) There are obvious connections to Jesus in this verse as well… a foreshadowing of what God really wanted to do in Jesus, but again, there’s no building of THAT kingdom either. It will be established forever.
The disciples and all of the followers of that day wanted to help Jesus “build” his “kingdom”, too. They envisioned a strong leader who would vanquish their powerful Roman suppressors and establish his kingdom forever (much like that 2 Samuel reference from above). He evaded their attempts to make him king, as they understood it, on several occasions. He spoke of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven many times, and never once was their a reference to building this Kingdom.
Because… it already exists. There is no building to do. His Kingdom is forever, and just is. It is not a kingdom of territories and boundaries and walls. Not a kingdom with social heirarchies where lords rule over vassals and servants submit their lives to the King. The Kingdom simply is. It can not be defined by us. Jesus mostly attempted to reveal it through his parables. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”
And, in my opinion, the kingdom is not what we perceive it to be today, either. We see our successes in getting people to attend our programs, and even bigger victories when they not only regularly attend, but begin serving in those programs to assist in bringing others to attend. That’s not the Kingdom. That’s the same as what all the people around Jesus wanted. A visible, measurable “kingdom”.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) God’s Kingdom is not being built with every victory we claim. It’s not something measurable. It’s the reality of Him. It’s Him. Jesus often claimed, “The Kingdom of God is near.” There is a sense of something yet to come, but I think he also meant it’s nearby… like, RIGHT THERE. Attainable, knowable, but not shaped by borders as they might have thought. It is a knowledge of the world as it was designed to be, by its Creator… by its King.
Let’s not follow paths already trod. When Jesus was here, they tried to make him King, as they understood it. We now proceed with our plans to “build his kingdom”, and they appear much like the plans of old. In fact, the truth is, WE do not build his kingdom at all. His kingdom has been established. Our joy is to live in it and not watch his kingdom grow, or attempt to help it grow, but to enjoy the freedom of life in Jesus, cultivating our relationship with HIM and loving the people he puts around us.
That is his Kingdom.