I heard once that Jesus talks about the kingdom of God more than anything else. More than love, or the resurrection, or peace. Why?
Recently, my mind has been fixed on the kingdom. Or rather, my kingdom vs The Kingdom.
I know that there exists a kingdom of my own making. You have one too. It’s in our nature, to build a world for ourselves, to find what Buechner calls, “our place in the sun.”I also know that we need to leave our kingdoms behind.
I’ve been in a slow process of doing so for many years. God started it. He always does. We aren’t meant to live in our own self-made domains. He loves us too much to let us live there.
But what do I mean by this kingdom creating? I mean the systems we create to provide for ourselves, to protect us from pain, to find love and belonging.
Our kingdoms have rules and values, ways of operating. And unfortunately, they usually run counter to the uppercase Kingdom.
That’s where we get in trouble.
The Trouble With Our Kingdoms
See, in Gina’s kingdom, I take care of myself. I do a pretty good job of taking care of others too. I perform to, or even exceed, the expectations of others. My reward is admiration and recognition, which kind of feels like love.
If you bump up against my kingdom, you might feel the pressure to live up to those expectations too. If I’m too wrapped up in my world, it might be hard for me to notice if you’re doing ok-after all, I don’t expect others to pay attention to my emotional well-being either.
But in God’s Kingdom, there’s no taking care of self, because it is prideful. There, perfect love drives out the fear that He won’t show up for me. In His way of living, there is no striving, only resting, when it comes to finding worth. There aren’t expectations on performance, just a hope that we will live gladly and purposefully in light of His love.
The troubles we encounter in life often center around the places where we expect others, including God, to live by our kingdom rules.
If the banner of my little self-made land is performance, but your world is focused on everyone being positive and having fun, and someone else’s dominion is ruled by order and perfection, and on and on, well, you can see where we might all have trouble living in peace with one another. Because deep down, we all think our dominion is the right one and the best one.
After a while, they aren’t kingdoms anymore: they’re prisons.
And our kingdoms need to crumble.
Letting Our Kingdoms Crumble
Jesus talked about the Kingdom so much because He knew we would try to make our own, and they would be lousy places to live.
He knew we would resist living in that true place He offers, so He wanted to give us a solid picture of His vs ours. He won’t stop until we live there.
The good news is that we are citizens of a new Kingdom.
We have a choice. I believe it’s the choice Jesus was talking about when he said to take up our crosses daily and follow Him. Each day, we choose to walk away from our kingdoms, the rules and expectations we impose on ourselves and others, and to walk in a new way.
We stop believing God should act according to our kingdom rules and we surrender to the life-giving freedom of His.
To do so requires humility. It requires a willingness to believe that maybe our best efforts are simply that-our efforts-and maybe there’s another way to live. For our worlds to fall away, we have to surrender.
When we seek His kingdom first, He tells us that everything else falls into place. We can live in peace with our neighbors, because we’re all actually in the same dominion now, not warring against one another.
So we ask God, “Where am I still trying to make this kingdom work for me? Where am I not living by your way but my own?” And then we raise the white flag.
The good news, God is patient, and He is relentless. The Kingdom He has built for us is always there, waiting for us to lay down our defenses and rest in Him.