Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
In the gospels Jesus talks about the “Kingdom of God” or in the above passage “my Kingdom” quite a bit.
This idea can be terrifying to a lot of people. So often when the idea of a “kingdom of God” is brought up the first thought people have is some sort of religious state along the lines of an islamofascist régime, or the kind of legislated morality often touted by those of the so called “Moral Majority” and the religious right in general.
Over the centuries since Christ first spoke of the Kingdom of God the term has been distorted and misappropriated by so many group in so many ways that I find it nearly impossible to use anymore without some sort of hour-long discussion that functions as a disclaimer to a simple point or idea.
There has to be a better way to handle this term.
So what is the kingdom of God? What is Jesus talking about?
The problem I see isn’t really in the ideas of a coming future kingdom, or a heavenly realm, but in the way that the term is used to describe life in the here and now.
When Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), or when Jesus says the kingdom of God is among you (or within you being an alternate translation, Luke 17:20-21) there is an implicit indication that there is some way that the kingdom of God is more then a distant location, or subject reserved exclusively for those with a thing for all things eschatological.
However, this by no means gives anyone permission to associate the “Kingdom of God” with an earthy power. As a Christian I find it nearly impossible to be anything but non-partisan. By associating oneself with one political party or another there is necessarily a tendency to favor the party’s platform on issues which diminishes our ability to evaluate where God is calling us to go. Christians must reserve their hearts and their political voice to following the teachings of Jesus, not to political allegiances.
There has been a tendency by both Democrats and Republicans to attempt to hijack the church for their own purposes. This is no different then the strategies invoked by despots throughout history who have manipulated the message of the laity to solidify their power and justify their actions. This has far too often been successful.
The Kingdom of God the church should seek is not one achieved by political initiatives, nor should it be content to look to a future reality at the expense of having the kingdom present in the here and now.
The Kingdom of God is seen whenever the life of Christ is reflected in a person’s life. When the teachings of Christ are made manifest by our actions we bring heaven to earth in powerful ways that are not contingent on legislation or only realized at some undisclosed future. They are the building blocks of a way of life that no government can promulgate or stifle. They are the outward acts of a love which knows no borders, and in the small acts we do in great love, we may find the borders of God’s kingdom expanding around us wherever we go.