What is the Kingdom of God?

On this fourth of July 2017 I feel compelled to ask the question "what is the Kingdom of God?". When Jesus began his public ministry he had one central mantra, "The time has come, the Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). 

What Jesus talked most about in his public ministry was the Kingdom of God. He would describe it by parables (Matthew 13) and through a constitutional vision (Matthew 5-7, also called the Sermon on the Mount). 

When we hear the word "kingdom" we thinks of Medieval knights or the Game of Thrones. It is an archaic word that can mislead us. Think of the Kingdom of God as the government of the empire of God. It is God's politics of grace, love and compassion. It is God's alternative to anti-human empires of power.

Through Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, He sits in the oval office of the universe and possesses all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). 

There is a new empire that governs a world being renewed in Christ if we want to be a citizen of it. 

The Kingdom of God is that which brings about human flourishing. It provides healing, hope and radical hospitality. It is separate from the kingdoms (empires) of the earth. 

Dr. Gregg Boyd in his book The Myth of a Christian Religion gives a powerful contrast. 

The difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world is measured by the kind of power they trust. The kingdoms of this world place their trust in whatever coercive power they can exercise to make things happen. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the sword.

In contrast, the kingdom of God refused to use coercive power over people, choosing instead to rely exclusively on whatever power it can exercise to serve others. I have often referred to this as the difference between power-over versus power-under. This is the transforming power of humble, self-sacrificial, Christlike love. Exercising power under others is about impacting people’s lives by serving them, sacrificing for them, and even being sacrificed by them while refusing to retaliate, as Jesus did.

We can think of this kind of power as the power of the cross, as the cross is the ultimate manifestation of the character and power of God.

In a violent world filled with people vying for power over others—sometimes even in the name of the church and in the name of Jesus—the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated offers people the peacemaking beauty of Christ.

The power of this distinctive, self-sacrificial beauty is lost, however, whenever the kingdom of God gets blended with power-over attitudes and practices that are of the kingdom of the world. The kingdom of God stops looking like Jesus when it starts trying to control, coerce, and manipulate through the power that looks like Caesar. This means that the kingdom for all practical purposes simply ceases to exist.

We are called out of this world to be a holy, separate people. We’re called to be nonconformists, resisting the “pattern of the world” as we’re transformed into the image of Christ. This holy nonconformity isn’t just one aspect of who we are—it actually defines us. It’s how we manifest the beauty of God’s character and his kingdom.

Out from the wellspring of abundant life that we receive from Christ, we live in revolt against everything in our own lives, in society, and in the spirit-realm that is inconsistent with the cruciform revelation of God.

—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 21-24

Ultimate freedom is when we can love as Jesus loves. If the Son will make you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).

Larry Pozza