In this series of blogs we have been talking about the kingdom of God. In Part 1, I talked about how Christians cannot live with a “sky is falling” attitude while at the same time believing that Jesus reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords right now. In Part 2, I talked about how we can be heralds of the kingdom and challenged us to think of ways to present the message of the kingdom in sound bites instead of sermons.
In this post I want to look at the idea of living the kingdom. If the kingdom of God is supposed to change the way we live, not just what we believe, how should we live? How do we live the kingdom in the midst of day to day life?
At this point there is much we could say about how we live toward other people. We could talk about how we love others or how we are generous to others or extend grace to others. Those are all aspects of living the kingdom, and some of them will be discussed in the next post, but in this post I want to focus on each of us individually.
I think that when we talk about the kingdom of God changing the way we live, it focuses on two aspects: rhythm and purpose.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of Christian writers and teachers (everyone from Catholic theologians to Rob Bell) talk about the importance of living in a rhythm. Living in rhythm provides an opportunity to have times of work, rest, play and spiritual reflection. There are daily rhythms, weekly rhythms, monthly rhythms and yearly rhythms.
I understand the importance of living in rhythm but I admit that I don’t live in rhythm well. The main reason I don’t live in rhythm well is because I haven’t let the full purpose sink into my life and into my soul. The purpose of living in rhythm isn’t to make sure all our tasks are accomplished during the day, week, month or year. The reason we live in rhythm is exactly the opposite. We live in rhythm to show that we trust God enough to spend time in rest, that we enjoy God enough to spend time in play and that love God enough to spend time in spiritual reflection and in spiritual disciplines. The rhythm of the months and the year remind us of the story of God and refresh us to our place within that story. Our king reigns and we are called to live as if that were true. As I try to live in rhythm myself, I am sure that I will explore this topic again in more depth.
Where does the idea of purpose enter into the discussion? As we live the kingdom, not only are we called to live in a kingdom rhythm but we are called to live with a purpose. Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy writes that as followers of Jesus we are called to be “apprentices of eternal living.” Let that sink in for a minute. Our purpose on earth is not to fulfill our desires for pleasure, money or power. Our purpose on earth is not to wait for heaven. Our purpose on earth is to spend our years, however many those may be, learning from and modeling the words and actions of Jesus. As Jesus did only what he saw the Father doing and in that Jesus did the Father’s will, our purpose is to do what Jesus did. In this way the kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven. For, as Willard also says, heaven is simply the space where the will of God is, “simply, done.”
When we think about living the kingdom on an individual basis we need to ask ourselves, what rhythm am I living and what purpose am I fulfilling? In the next post we’ll look at how we await the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom and what that means for how we live with others.