Jesus talked a lot about 'kingdom'. The kingdom of heaven is like... Gospel of the kingdom... Thy kingdom come... The kingdom of heaven is at hand... Seek first the kingdom of God...
Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionary expands the Greek word to: “ properly royalty, that is, (abstractly) rule, or (concretely) a realm (literally or figuratively): - kingdom, + reign.”
In Jesus' time, the idea of kingdom was relevant and easily understandable, although the image wasn't always a positive one. The Jews had a history of some good, benevolent kings, and some despots. In the time of Christ, the Jews were under the rulership of Rome, and well understood the concept.
However, as Jesus said, his kingdom was not of this world. His rulership would gain power and influence as his subjects put themselves under it, and promoted the lifestyle of their chosen king.
In our present experience, the idea of 'kingdom' lacks the potential excitement it would have brought to Jesus' hearers. Most kings in our memory are either powerless figureheads, or dictators.
So in “The secret message of Jesus” Brian McLaren suggests some other images that might better picture the wonder and power of what Jesus was announcing.
- The dream of God. It has always been God's intent that his creation enjoys all he has given us. After all, Dr. Martin Luther King was only echoing the heart of God when he said: “I have a dream.”
- The revolution of God. Restoring life to its intended fullness will require some drastic changes. But it will be a revolution of love, not violence.
- The mission of God. This thought echoes the concept of the church being 'missional'. Actively involed in the various works of Jesus.
- The party of God. Not as in a political party, but a birthday party.
- The network of God. The place we can all connect, be a community.
- The dance of God. The dynamic rhythm, movement, cooperation of us along with God.
I like these pictures. They still point to God, to his reign, but add depth and breadth, color and texture, taste and smell.
As we start looking at the Beatitudes, keep some of these pictures in mind.