Daniel 7:13-14 (NRSV)
To him was given dominion and glory and kingship….His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
A Word of Hope
About 2500 years ago, the prophet Daniel saw those around him grow disheartened by a nation rife with growing inequality, injustice, and oppression in their nation. The belief that God would right all wrongs seemed improbable, if not ludicrous. If God was either in control or had any plans to make things right, the evidence did not suggest it.
Daniel had a dream and prophesied that God would send a King to both rescue the people of God and to establish eternal dominion. The audience in Daniel’s time would have heard in his words the promise of a physical kingdom, one set up by God, with a just and powerful ruler whom God had established.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus arrived on the scene. And those who followed him believed him to be the predicted ruler whose kingdom would be established and last forever. Finally, it seemed God had sent the one who would set all things right. But Jesus must have surprised his followers by teaching them that “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
He showed that the Kingdom of God does not refer simply to a physical reign of God, nor to a solely spiritual one. Rather, it encompasses both the earthly and heavenly domain of God. It is the realm where God is sovereign and we are living in the peace, beauty, love, and justice God has called us to. This Kingdom began with Christ and is both current and future, at once present and to come. And that Kingdom is eternal.
When we choose to practice these principles, we essentially seek asylum from the ways of our culture that do not correspond with the ways of Christ. This Kingdom has no walls, no repatriation. We need only agree to usher in the rule of peace, mercy, beauty, kindness, and justice by practicing them. The teachings of Jesus and the predictions about him tell us that one day the Kingdom will be fully established, and all will be made right. On Earth as it is in Heaven. But Jesus emphasized that until that day, the principles of the Kingdom and the abilities to usher it in exist in all who follow him.
The Kingdom of God operates under a different set of principles. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The face of Christ can be found in the hungry and homeless. The poor, lonely, marginalized, infirm, and incarcerated. Those who mourn and those who seek peace.
The reign of God takes place in our minds, hearts, and our interactions with others.
Let us seek those areas in our lives where we have the ability to increase justice, mercy, peace, love, and joy in the world around us and the ways in which we can do so.
Let us ask: where am I holding on to resentment, being unkind, passing by those who could use an encouraging word? Do I see caring for the poor, needy, and ill as someone else’s job or ministry? Have I become adept at explaining why others find themselves in difficult situations rather than compelled to mitigate their pain?
Until such time as all the earth is made as just, peaceful, and beautiful as it is in Heaven, let us remember, to quote the late author Rachel Held Evans, that “at the end of the day, we’re all in this Kingdom thing together. We’re all loved by God, all in desperate need of grace, all in need of one another.”