The “kingdom of God” is a phrase translated into English from something that was central to the teaching of Jesus. This phrase has become church jargon. What does it actually mean? Is the intended original significance lost in the way it gets used today?
Are you able to simply define the kingdom of God to someone not part of the church who has never been Christianised?
At my church on Sunday nights we have a shared meal. It’s pretty relaxed, and after we’ve eaten there’s usually a few planned ‘slots’ to help us engage with one another and with God.
One of the ‘slots’ we’ve been doing is called “stuff Jesus said”, where somebody reads out a conversation Jesus had with a person or a group of people. They then share a few reflections on the conversation, followed by a few questions for people around the tables to talk about together.
- What was going on for the people having this conversation?
- What did it mean for them?
- What does this conversation mean for us? (in 21st century Christchurch)…
What does Jesus mean by the kingdom of God?
I thought this was the perfect question.
I personally have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the phrase “kingdom of God” because of the ambiguity I have observed around its use.
There were five of us sitting around the table I was at, and I got quite keen when this question came up. This question was a real handbrake to the conversation. It wasn’t meant to be a trick question. Yet around the table of churched people, there was difficulty in clearly describing what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God.
Most people around the table would have been able to quote things like:
Jesus said the kingdom of God is like [insert interesting metaphor here]
But none of them did. We ended up having a good conversation but I was left unsatisfied with the responses from my church friends who struggled to communicate well that which is one of the most significant concepts for Christians.
One person used the word “sanctification” in their description of the kingdom of God. This is a sidetrack to this post, but soon I’m going to do a post on “Words Christians should NEVER use.” Sanctification is one of those words. I think it’s a lazy church word that lacks meaning or significance in 21st century conversations. We should choose other ways to describe what we mean with that word. Anyway.
I really am interested in how to explain the kingdom of God in 21st century conversations and society.
I’ve been thinking for several years how best to communicate the kingdom of God – and have been experimenting in various ways. Soon I’ll post my thoughts on where I’m at with this. In the meantime:
If you and I were at a cafe meeting for a drink, and the 19-year-old university-student barista, who had never been Christianised, overheard you mention the kingdom of God to me and asked you:
“What’s the kingdom of God?”
You have about 30 seconds to gently educate and create some intrigue with this 19-year-old:
What would you say?
Image “Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ” courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net