The kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, is something that is spoken about often in scripture, especially in the Gospels. At times, it is discussed as something we are to pray for, as it is written in Matthew 6:9-10: ” In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” At other times, the kingdom of heaven is spoken of in a way that would terrify some people, as it is written at the end of the Parable of the Minas  in Luke 19:26-27: “For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.” I have discussed elsewhere, and do not wish to merely repeat here, the fact that there are two faces to Jesus’ return, one face seen by those who eagerly await and have carefully prepared for His coming, who see Him as lord and king and elder brother, and the other face of horror and terror seen by those who see Him as an enemy who has finally come to claim His kingdom .
When people think about the way that we should be living right now in light of the coming reign of Jesus Christ, many people jump to thoughts of the love that we are to have for God and for others. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this love is imagined often in a romantic and emotional sense. What we think of as love reigns over many lives, and there is an intensity of feeling and of closeness and intimacy, but when that feeling dies, often we have not chosen to be committed to communication and acting with kindness and thoughtfulness towards someone, but rather our commitment is only as long as the feeling lasts. Still others seek to coerce others into entering or remaining in bonds that force a sort of love, directed for someone’s selfish benefit, but do not act in such a way as to encourage that love or to show a mutuality of concern or obligation. If we expect others to fulfill our own emotional needs, we are not likely to ponder their own. If we want love to reign over us, it is generally in the sense that we want the feeling of intimacy or belonging, or the intensity of passion and infatuation to last, not that we want to find ourselves committed to a certain course of conduct, regardless of how we happen to feel at a given time.
When we wish for the coming of the Kingdom of God, are we often aware of what we are really asking for? It is a part of the manner of prayer that we are taught in the scriptures, and many of us, when we pray at services, will make a comment about seeking the return of our Savior and King, but how consciously do we reflect on what this really means? We know the laws of God, and we know that the ethical demands of Jesus Christ have always been tougher than what man can achieve apart from the indwelling presence of God, whether we look at the laws of the Pentateuch of the ethical demands of Christians . It can be easy to be too comfortable with the world we now live in and not realize just how different the kingdom of God is, or how much it will require of us that we may not be used to doing or being in our present state. The kingdom of heaven is not merely an escape from the difficulties of this world, but it is a place where believers are to be expected to exercise responsibility and to use their talents and God-given abilities to serve others and help lead and teach and encourage them. It is not to be chosen merely out of fear, but must be chosen out of love, for to be a good citizen of the kingdom of God requires continual outgoing love for others, and that is a task that requires a lot out of us, more than we often imagine.
Ancient Israel asked for a king to save them from their problems, and rather than be happy, God was upset . His comments to Samuel, recorded in 1 Samuel 8:7-9, are worth pondering: “And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”” God was upset at Israel because they had never gotten the point about what God’s kingship over Israel was expected to lead to. Israel wanted a king to save them from their problems, but God wanted them to grow in obedience and in faith and in competence so that they could be a nation of kings and priests. God did not want to make their struggles and trials smaller, but to help them and encourage them to become bigger than their trials, to be capable of leadership and handling responsibilities.
And so it is often with our life. In our lives we are given a variety of struggles and difficulties to deal with. Often it is fairly obvious that we have a specific set of issues to work with because we are given problems related to those issues over and over again. One of the aspects of those difficulties is that the goal is that the problems make us bigger, just as the problems we wrestle with as students, the intellectual problems our minds seek to solve, are there to exercise our brains and to make us more intelligent, or at least better educated. The problems of trust, of communication, of self-restraint, or whatever problems we face over and over again, are meant to enlarge our compassion for others, our faith in God, our skills at dealing with other people, and our abilities to relate to others. God does not wish to make our problems smaller, so that we go through life with a sense of ease. Rather, He wishes for us to become larger through encouragement and instruction, so that we can be the sort of people that He created us to be, and can fulfill the purposes for which we were put on this earth. May we grow into the roles and responsibilities that we have been created to fulfill.
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