Two Ideas of the Kingdom of God
Two concepts I've learned in the past ten years or so have radically altered my view of what it means to be a Christian.
The first is the tension of the "already but not yet" of the Kingdom of God. What I mean by this is, we can experience life in God's Kingdom now. We can enter into eternal life, receive answers to prayer, and experience God in countless ways. The Kingdom, in many ways, is already here, but in many others it is still to come. "Not yet." We have eternal life now, but we still get sick, and we still die. Creation still groans under the weight of a broken world. Christ will set all this right when he returns, but that has not yet happened.
Which leads to the second idea, that the Kingdom of God is not merely about salvation from sin. To be clear, it is about salvation from sin. The way I heard this explained early in my Christian life inside white, evangelical churches made this into something very individualistic and man-centered. The Bible, however, does not speak this way. It is far too narrow a conception of what God is doing, and what he intends to do.
The Kingdom of God is about restoring the broken.
We our broken because of sin, and Jesus came to restore that. Sin's effects, however, go far beyond the personal. Until I began to consider that the Kingdom is already but not yet here, I did not have a large view of the miracles of Christ. I thought they were meant to merely authenticate what he was saying. This is true, they did this, but they did something else. They were not merely Christ's credentials, they were a declaration that Christ came to restore what was broken.
In God's Kingdom, no one is sick. When Jesus encountered the sick, he healed them. No one is hungry, so he fed the multitudes. And no one dies, so he raised the dead and, ultimately, himself rose from the dead. All of these show that the Kingdom has come, but has not yet been consummated. Jesus came to restore it all.
This is one of the many reasons I do not understand white evangelicals' fear of standing for social change. I mean, I *do* understand it, to a large degree. But it is more and more clear to me that injustice is something Jesus clearly stood against. This is not even considering the massive amount of Scripture on the topic, but just looking at the life of Jesus. He did not tell the hungry to apply themselves so they could have money for food. He did not give thoughts and prayers to the sick and dying. Nor did he see our plight from Heaven and tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
He came to us. He gave up his rights. He was called names because of who he associated with. He set things right, and is still setting them right. He will ultimately set it all right.
I believe that any attempt to share the Gospel without this mindset is anemic. It must always be so. Leading people through a prewritten prayer is not the goal of the Kingdom of God. We cannot raise the dead as Jesus did, but in our ways, to the extent we are able through his power, we must declare the Kingdom until he comes.