Good day Friends!
My name is Carmela Lao, who hails from the islands of the happiest people in the world, the Philippines.
I don't know if you've already been to my country but if you are planning to, I'm positive that you will notice how happy the Filipinos are with their lives despite the raging price hikes tied up with the lack of employment means; the devastating damages brought by the recent geographical disasters that we experienced; the separation of family members caused by immigration for job opportunities—these are just VERY FEW examples of the problems a typical Filipino is facing. But regardless of all these, the joy of the fact that we are still breathing, that we are still able to wake up in the morning to experience God's grace in our lives, is what reflects in us; that is why we are able to curve our lips in a smile and to open our mouths for a hearty laugh.
Before I go on, let me first give a short background of myself. I am a university student, currently in my final year in college. I am taking up Bachelor in Communication Research and I will be able to graduate next month which makes me really excited. I am an Evangelical Christian. Back in my church, I am one of the youth advisers. I was also appointed to be our church's music director and I gladly accepted it for my love of music and my passion for using it to worship and glorify the name of the Lord.
Today, I was tasked to give a presentation about the Kingdom of God part of the theme. At first, I found this topic really challenging. But by God's guidance and grace, it became the topic that I would like to talk about.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The clash of two kingdoms: The Tension Brought by the 'Kingdom of God' Concept
As we read different verses in the Bible concerning the Kingdom of God, we will be able to see a paradox of ideas. Let me present several verses for you to see the cases.
Zechariah, a prophet from the Old Testament wrote in Zechariah 9:9-10,
9Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the river to the ends of the earth.
Let me invite you to read another verse that will be found in Matthew 6:9-10. An excerpt from the Lord's Prayer that goes:
9"This is then how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
These verses give out implications that the Kingdom of God hasn't arrived yet, but is yet to come. And these implications are not just ordinary statements but are promises, expected to be fulfilled as Christ comes back.
Now let me present to you the case that seemingly contradicts with the first one.
Luke 11:20 reads,
20"But if I drive out demons by the finger of God,
then the kingdom of God has come to you."
If we flip up a few pages, we will be able to read what Luke 17:20-21 has to say:
20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees
when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied,
"The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,"
21nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the Kingdom of
God is within you.
Now these verses, unlike the first set I presented, talks about the Kingdom of God being within us, meaning it is present, existing, experienced and is here. Upon reading these sources, tensions rise as to whether the Kingdom of God is already here or if it hasn't arrived yet. Paradoxical ideas, indeed, have been presented from the Bible. Now the question is: What is the truth behind the tensions on these concepts on the Kingdom of God?
THE TWO FACES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD: The Present and The Future
The interpretation of the concepts being presented implies that the Kingdom of God has two faces: The (1) Spiritual and the (2) Physical aspects. The spiritual aspect is also the one associated with the present, and the physical aspect with the future. As we delve deeper into this ocean of thoughts we will be able to understand more about the two concepts, their relationship, and their roles in our lives as we live out the Kingdom of God in the broken world.
SPIRITUAL ASPECT: THE KINGDOM OF GOD THAT IS WITHIN US
This aspect is the one mentioned in the second set of verses I cited, particularly in Luke 17:21. It is the Kingdom of God that is within us.
When we say within, it means that the Kingdom being defined here is inside us, in our hearts, in our whole system. It also means that God is reigning in hearts. He is in full control of our lives. This is because Jesus Christ has come into our lives when we accepted Him as our personal Lord and Savior.
And here is where our values come along. If we have Jesus working in our lives, we would be able to live out the inner kingdom in us. What we believe as true, what we strongly believe in our hearts as real, we reflect it outside. And as we believe in the absolute power of the Lord over us, inside us, we will be able to reflect these values that are good and true, which is the manifestation of living out the kingdom within us.
As we live out the inner kingdom, then we will be able to glow out the inner light in us for others to see our good values and concern for others. And not only will they be able to see what we could give, but they will also be able to see where we get all of these! Just like a light illuminating a dark room, we will not just be able to see the light, but we will see its source as well, which is the bulb.
In our lives, Jesus Christ is the bulb. As He glows inside us, as He works in our lives, transforming us day by day, we may live out the Kingdom to the broken world.
PHYSICAL ASPECT: THE KINGDOM OF GOD THAT IS YET TO COME
The second aspect of the Kingdom of God is the Physical Aspect, which is the Kingdom of God that has not yet arrived but is YET to come. The Physical Aspect is a forthcoming event that pertains to the second coming of Jesus Christ to establish God's physical Kingdom here on earth. And as the Bible says, once the Kingdom of God has been established, everything will turn out to be so much better.
What we have here today on Earth is not yet the Kingdom of God. I assume that all of us see the evidence being brought up by wars, greed, corruption, crime - all these destructions and wrongdoings are very, very obvious. These are not characteristics of God's Kingdom. Our God is the God of love and peace, and today, with all that is happening around us, would you say that there is peace? What we have today is not of God but of the enemy.
But what does the Kingdom of God look like? As Christ comes back, Isaiah 2:4 says:
4He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor they will train for war anymore.
I tell you. As the Kingdom of God is established here in our very world, everything will turn out to be so much better! Wars will cease; hunger and poverty will be washed out; natural calamities will end; difficulties experienced by each individual, each family, and each nation of the world will be abolished; and peace will be FULLY attained. We, alone, cannot attain total peace. Even our greatest efforts result in gaining only a small part of it, but to attain its fullness, we alone aren't enough. We need an intervention to do this and Jesus Christ is the intervention we need. As He establishes God’s Kingdom here on Earth, it is only until then that we will be able to see, evidently and concretely, the physical aspect of the Kingdom of God.
THE KINGDOM MECHANISM: The Relationship of the Two Aspects and How They Work Together
The two aspects of the Kingdom of God do not exist for nothing. These are present for a purpose and they are meant to be together.
CHANGE STARTS IN OURSELVES. If not, then how do we expect change, when we ourselves don't work to make it happen? How could we influence others to take an action, if we ourselves don't practice what we preach? If we really want better changes, well, we must be the change ourselves!
It is the same with "The Kingdom Mechanism." The relationship of the two aspects begins and will always have to begin with the Spiritual Aspect or the Kingdom WITHIN. It always has to start in YOU, in US.
Friends, to live the Kingdom of God in this broken world, we must live it in our lives first. As we welcome God’s love in our very hearts, the Kingdom of God will automatically manifest in us! The love and care that we show for others - we don't do these things on purpose. These things aren't scripted. It automatically happens because of what we have here, inside of us. Like a water, overflowing from a pot as it boils, as we get filled with so much of God's love, our hearts would be warmed up, that genuine love and concern for others will just overflow from us.
And this is what it takes for transformation to take place in our broken community. This transformation is the manifestation of the Physical Aspect of the Kingdom of God. It shows that with the help of the Spiritual Aspect, we could possibly change our communities into the likeness of the Kingdom that is yet to come - a place for peace, understanding and unity.
However, since it is just a 'manifestation,' it won't be perfect yet. It won't yet be the literal Kingdom of God. Because as humans, it is still our nature to fall into sin and sin is everywhere. No person could evade its effects and consequences. But what is good is that we have this evidence that a perfect community is possible to happen! And to attain that, Jesus Christ should intervene.
LIVING IT OUT
I have a friend. Her name is Rina Saynes. Before, she works as a paralegal for a non-government foundation. She frequently visits jails, interacts with prisoners and helps for the follow-up of their cases.
When she first set foot to a jail in Manila, she saw the terrible condition of the prisoners in there. The prisoners have so many physical needs that are not supplied. There are abused prisoners and also the treatment that is given to them is very, very bad.
But God showed this situation at hand for her heart to be warmed and be filled with compassion to work for the change in this community and in those people enveloped in brokenness.
So after some time of continuing her paralegal works, she discovered that these prisoners have greater needs, more important than their physical needs.
CHANGE: how important is this in your life? To some it might be of highest importance and to others this may not mean anything. You know what? Change is very important to these prisoners. I don't believe that there is a person that is not bugged by his conscience. I believe that, at some point, these prisoners were also urged by this small voice to turn their life around. At some point they also thought of changing from the person that they used to be and live life anew.
However, it may be really hard for them to take the first step. Real story: most of these prisoners are already abandoned by their loved ones. Left alone, forgotten.
Imagine yourself being alone, having no one to support you, no one to listen to your stories, to your future plans to change. Would you think you would still have to change for the better when all of the people that you love leave you? Do you think you would still have that hope to motivate you to live your life in a new page? That would be really hard. But with the help of this friend of mine, these people realize that life is still precious after all. That with everyone turning away from them, there is still someone who will never, ever leave: God. And He alone is more than enough to inspire them, to aid and motivate them to change. He alone is more than enough to give them hope that, despite all this hurt that they experience in the night, it will vanish in the morning and will be replaced with an outburst of absolute joyfulness; that despite the harsh things that they have done, they are still entitled to a second chance to right what went wrong with their lives. Rina is a proof that anyone could be an agent of change. Anyone could be an instrument to establish a manifestation of God's Kingdom here on Earth. All you have to do is to live out what is within you.
Friends, living out the Kingdom of God is not really that hard. All you've got to do is to BELIEVE that as we walk with Jesus we will be able to experience His unfathomable love and compassion, His goodness and His grace. We will be filled with so much of these that we will not have enough room inside us to store these that we just have to give them away to other people. Every one of us are instruments. We are all accountable for the permanent establishment of the Kingdom of God in this broken world. Always remember that the process starts with God in Christ Jesus working in us. And without us, without our willingness to cooperate with God, the mechanism will be incomplete.
CHANGE: started by God, injected within us through Jesus Christ, and fueled by the Holy Spirit. Now there is only one thing that me and you should do for change to take place: LIVE IT OUT. Friends, let us always remember that with Jesus in our hearts, change will start.