Before I completed the initial bloodwork, I told my small prayer group about what I was considering. We're a group of 4 women who have become dear. We started meeting via Zoom during the pandemic, to pray, discern, dream, and simply do life together. So as we virtually gathered on January 15th, I shared the promptings I'd been feeling. There was a pause, tears, and praises...and then Mary shared from a book she had been reading...
Because the Kingdom is about life--abundant life, to quote Jesus--I came to realize that all of these life issues are Kingdom concerns. In Jesus' day, a Kingdom outbreak meant that the lame could walk, the blind could see, and the lepers were made whole. Because these physical conditions prevented people from working to support themselves, their disabilities doomed them to beggary and poverty. Delivering people from these maladies made a much better life possible for them.
The Kingdom of God is about abundant life - people being freed from limiting conditions. I've thought a lot about the Kingdom of God in my walk with the Lord. What is the Kingdom you might ask? In a nutshell, it's the the fulfillment of God’s will on earth, or the spiritual realm over which God reigns as king. Think about the Lord's prayer you may have been taught as a child, "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Have you ever wondered what exactly you were praying for, or why you were taught to pray in such a way? It's actually the prayer Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6, starting with verse 9.
When we look at the gospels, the Kingdom is at the core of what Jesus is all about. In Mark, chapter 1, verse 15, we find Jesus proclaiming the good news, "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" But it might surprise you to know that Jesus' pronouncement caused quite a bit of controversy and confusion amongst the Jewish people. They had in their mind what the Kingdom of God was all about, it was the hope the Jewish people found in the Hebrew scriptures, like we see in Isaiah 9:7
Of the greatness of his government and peace
Israel's history had included exile and oppression…and they anticipated that when the Messiah came – the King from the line of David, he would march into Jerusalem, establish a new Kingdom, regather the scattered people of Israel, drive out sin, along with the Romans, and establish peace and justice over all nations. The long anticipated "age to come" would come in an instant. The world would be as God intended it to be - and they expected this transition would come suddenly, with the arrival of the beloved Messiah.
But that's not what Jesus was claiming. Instead, he was demonstrating a gentler entrance of the Kingdom. Let's take a look at Luke 17:20-21
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus,
Already among you? That threw the Pharisees (a sect of Judaism) for a loop. There wouldn’t be a sudden Kingdom takeover, but instead a slow transition, a season of overlap, where this age and the age to come, exist together. Where brokenness and healing, oppression and freedom, exist together, both in our lives, and in our world. The kingdom would not be fulfilled immediately with a powerful leader, but rather it would come silently and unseen. In fact, it had already begun…ruling in the hearts of some people.
The Kingdom looked differently than many people anticipated. And I think if we're honest, this is still true for us today - and perhaps the source of much of our faith wrestling and frustration. We want to see the "sudden" - the fix, the cure, the freedom, yet sometimes we experience the brokenness, the loss, the process...and grace comes in gentler doses along the way...often overlooked, misunderstood and dismissed. Similar to Jesus...
This is the tension of living in the "already not yet" Kingdom of God, the theological concept to explain how the kingdom exists in our world (Jesus inaugurated it) but it has not yet come in fullness (when Christ returns). We are living in between the two realities--the already, not yet.
In the New Testament, we see many places in Jesus' life and ministry where he chose to demonstrate the inauguration of the Kingdom, through sudden, miraculous physical healings, which I believe wholeheartedly still happen today. Yet, Jesus never tells us this will always be the outcome, at least not until the Kingdom comes in full - the promised age to come.
We live in the tension, the place where He invites us to partner in the ushering. Followers of Jesus are called to help establish His Kingdom on earth, to be the very "kingdom already among" that Jesus referred to: “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
Who are you among today? Who is God laying on your heart? Who needs to experience a glimpse of heaven on earth? How might God be prompting you to be the answer to someone's prayer? (through encouragement, friendship, finances, etc.)
I'm still surprised when I go back and piece together my kidney journey timeline. This "already not yet concept" is weighty and I can't possibly do it justice in this one post, but looking back, it is the topic I had the opportunity to teach on during a women's event at my church on January 19th. He was preparing my heart while setting the stage for more of His Kingdom to come.
To pop back up to the excerpt from the book Mary read from Kingdom Come by Reggie McNeal...I might suggest an addition...italicized below.
In our day, manifestations of the Kingdom may still include physical healing, but they also mean that people are freed from limiting conditions that keep them locked into perpetually poor life situations. Thus, Kingdom efforts result in kids learning to read so they have a chance at graduation; the unemployed finding jobs; the uninsured gaining access to adequate health care; the homeless finding a place to call home; and a man being able to live in freedom from dialysis, with a functioning kidney.
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
This is a private blog to help document my kidney donation journey and the theological, biblical, and ethical considerations for organ donation.