When considering kingdoms, we tend to think of nations, or groups of people in a collective sense. Yet, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
The kingdom of God is not visible in the same way a worldly kingdom is with a king and his subjects located in a defined geographic area. The kingdom of God is also different in that membership is determined by individual choice instead of residence or citizenship. The Individual chooses whether he or she wants to be a part of God’s kingdom. God gives individuals complete freedom to choose or reject his kingdom.
Jesus had a lot to say about the kingdom of God and used the parables to explain what the kingdom is like. He tells us the kingdom has great value, like a fine pearl or treasure, and we should be willing to give everything we have to attain it. He says it can grow from the tiniest desire similar to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds into the largest of plants. It can coexist with evil like good seed planted in a field where weeds also grow. God’s kingdom, whether one individual or many, can impact the world around it like a small amount of yeast impacts a large amount of dough. (Mt. 13:1-36)
Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again of water and spirit. A spiritual rebirth is necessary.
So, the kingdom of God is wherever there are individuals who accept God’s offer to dwell in them through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Church, the successor to Jesus and the apostles, facilitates the growth of the kingdom of God through the sacraments and its many forms of outreach.
Yet, like all of creation and physical matter that is made up of countless single parts called atoms, the kingdom of God starts with individuals making a decision to accept God’s offer to dwell within them.
Thus, the kingdom can be present through an individual or a collection of individuals. The Church, of course, reflects the collective kingdom of God, but more often the kingdom is quietly reflected in the actions of individual Christians showing their love of God through their love and service to others in countless ways.
A few months ago I visited a friend of more than forty years who has always reflected the kingdom of God. Her love of God and her constant joy played a part in my own spiritual rebirth many years ago. Though her body is now incapacitated by a stroke and confined to a wheel chair, her beautiful smile still reflects the joy and amazing grace of the Lord and the kingdom of God.