If God's Kingdom is as near as the air we breathe, why is it that we have such difficulty recognizing it? Let's face it, humans tend to believe in what they can see, taste, touch and smell. But Jesus has come on the scene proclaiming a Kingdom that surrounds us as the atmosphere does, but is so large that our galxy fits in one small corner of it. Before we can live according to the rules of this kingdom (which is what we will examine next week), we must first believe that it is what Jesus says it is.
If the Kingdom is all around us then we must first consent to one very important fact; we live in a spiritual world. Despite all that science has taught us, our post-modern culture is starting to awaken to the fact that if we look only at the physical, the BIG questions of life go unanswered.
"Why am I here?"
"What is my purpose?"
"Will I be truly loved?"
"What can I do to make a real difference?"
Look all you want for answers in your science books and nature journals, but no satisfactory answers will emerge. If all we are is a cosmic accident of chemical reactions, then life is random and purposeless.
Something deep within us refuses to accept that we are random. We want meaning. We desire purpose. We long for love and we all desire to leave our impact on the world. These desires are much deeper than carnal instinct, and to satisfy them we must turn to the spiritual realm. Only then will answers start to emerge.
Yet we must be careful, for the spiritual realms are unfamiliar to our physically minded souls. Satan lays in wait behind many a false teacher or vain philosophy. Many, longing for answers, have turned to spiritists, wicca, and othe new age practices to find answers. But these are not of the Kingdom Jesus speaks of. While His kingdom is spiritual, it seeks to help us thrive in the physical world, not retreat from it.
This leads to the second fact we must accept: God's kingdom exists in the physical world. Jesus' words are not the ramblings of a far-east mystic telling us to ostracize the physical world. On the contrary, He is teaching us how to make a real difference. Just read Matthew 4:23-24 and you will see why there was a crowd on the mountain. It was because Jesus was meeting physical needs. He was healing physical bodies. His kingdom, while spiritual in nature, was concerned with the physical welfare of others.
Go through the New Testament and see how often the Church (the physical representation of the Kingdom of the Heavens) is challenged to meet the needs of the poor, the orphaned, the widow, and the hungry. For the world to take our spiritual message seriously, we must take their physical needs seriously. Too often the church emphasizes one over the other. Bread is handed to the hungry with no connection to the Bread of Life. Or, sadder still, the poor are prayed for with nothing being done to clothe them.
Jesus' kingdom is both spiritual and physical. It is too big to be regulated to only one realm. Therefore we, as her citizens, must be concerned with both the physical and spiritual needs amongst our fellow humans. The Kingdom exists in the now, and we must serve others in the moment of their need.
I pray the world sees the immediacy of the Kingdom of the Now. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!"