I am spending some time writing about the kingdom of God. Last week I wrote about the kingdom as a present reality. You can read that here. This week I’ll be writing about the second characteristic of the kingdom. It is present in life.
When Jesus taught about the kingdom, he said things like, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). So when we say that Jesus came so that we could have eternal life, we are right. So long as we understand that eternal kingdom life begins now. The kingdom is present in life.
In The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard calls redemption “the impartation of life.” He says, “God’s seminal redemptive act towards us is the communication of a new kind of life.” If we insist on focusing only on the forgiveness component of salvation, “the body and therefore the concrete life we find ourselves in are lost to the redemptive process.”
Jesus’ teachings on kingdom and life are deeply interwoven. When he teaches about life, he is describing life in the kingdom. We see this in the way kingdom and life are almost interchangeable when Jesus talks about his mission. Over and over he speaks of life (as he did with kingdom) as the desired outcome of his work. In John 10:10 Jesus teaches that life is the reason he came. He came so that we might experience life, and not just plain old boring life, but abundant life! He teaches about the two roads, one that leads to destruction and the other that leads to life (Mt 7:13-15). His followers asked and he taught about gaining or inheriting eternal life (Mt 19:29, Mk 10:17).
I believe there is a longing within each of us to experience kingdom life. The blueprints of the kingdom are written on our hearts. Many of us today lead what Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation.” Our hearts are yearning for the life we were created to live. There is desire bubbling within each of us to live a certain kind of life, a life of love, a life of joy, a life of meaning, and we can see this desire percolating in our music, movies, and literature
When I was a kid, I had a deep love for stories of adventure. I remember my mom taking me to the Woodstock Public Library every two weeks as I systematically worked my way through every King Arthur book in the collection. Arthurian legend and stories like it continue to fascinate me. A farmer’s nephew chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Jedi Knight. A bored, disenchanted computer programmer discovers that he is “The One,” or a nerdy high school boy gains the proportional strength and agility of a spider.
These narratives follow similar patterns. An ordinary individual discovers he or she has an extraordinary purpose (The Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings) or someone wakes up from the ordinary to a more deep and meaningful life (Dead Poets Society, Braveheart, The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life). Stories like these captivate us because deep down we long for them to become our story. Do you see this longing in your life? If so, where?