The fulfillment of God's kingdom is a future reality, but we also know the kingdom of God is at hand. How can we best live into that reality right here, right now?
I live in a typical English village, and Sunday morning, along with my neighbors, I stood in a church and read these words: In your mercy, forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are, and direct what we shall be.
I pray these words of confession every week, but today they struck me powerfully. They address the disappointments of the past, acknowledge my present inadequacy, and reorientate my life towards God’s purposes in Christ. As I confess my sin and the lordship of Jesus Christ, my past and my present are aligned with God’s future reality. Regular confession is such an ordinary habit, but it ushers God’s kingdom rule into the messiness of my days, making my life a signpost that points to the ultimate reality of God’s kingdom coming.
—Sarah C. Williams, Research Associate, St Benet’s Hall at the University of Oxford and author of Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian
The unshakeable kingdom is our inheritance as believers in Jesus Christ. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that our “forever God” is present right now. We get tired. We get lonely or bored. We feel burdened. But God’s desire is to be in communion with us, even in the midst of this. God “has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2) and says, “Listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7). This is the God who has conquered death and will wipe all tears from our eyes. When we make space for the awareness of the divine, God can speak to us. And given time, our bodies can even catch up and rest in the knowledge that our renewed minds and hearts have received.
—Kate Bowler, Professor at Duke Divinity School and author of Everything Happens for a Reason—And Other Lies I’ve Loved
If we hope to be useful as neighbors, citizens, and church members, the beginning must be not to reflect on what is pragmatically possible in our current deeply diseased moment. It is, rather, to ask what practices, rituals, and ways of living are “natural” according to the world as God has made it. Then we should seek to live into those things and commend them to others.
One simple way is to celebrate life: Don’t judge the mom with four kids at the grocery store. Say something kind and affirming instead. When a growing family announces another pregnancy, rejoice with them. Babies are good. They exist in the world as icons of the love that binds father to mother and generation to generation.
Another idea: Learn a skill that forces you to reckon with the materiality of God’s world, and then use it to serve neighbors. These small, simple things can be what one writer has called “an earnest,” a sign of your faith in the goodness of God’s world.
—Jake Meador, Editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy and author of In Search of the Common Good
Two truths always underlie passages in the Bible about the fulfillment of the kingdom: We must be alert, and we must persevere in serving God amidst hardship. Matthew 24:14 is, for the Christian, one of the most exciting verses in the Bible. While the media highlights numerous events deemed newsworthy, we are personally involved in the surest key to the climax of history: the proclamation of the gospel. The Bible also tells us that now, while God’s kingdom grows and triumphs, evil will also grow. So we are not disillusioned by the rampant evil we see. Instead, as we join in the agenda of God’s kingdom, we persevere in pleasing God and (most of all) in seeking His face.
—Ajith Fernando, Teaching Director of Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka and author of Discipling in a Multicultural World
Illustration by Seb Lester