“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: 20-21 NIV)
With these words, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees’ question of when the kingdom of God would come. It is a question people have been asking for centuries, starting with the apostles. The Pharisees are thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom, namely Israel, but Jesus gives them a surprising answer. The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom with observable boundaries and an earthly king. Rather, Jesus says the kingdom of God is “within you,” or “among you” as in some translations. Its geography is our heart, our soul – our inner being.
Jesus gives added understanding of this verse in the Gospel of John when he says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23) If we love God and obey his teaching, God and Jesus will take up residence in us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God draws us closer to him each day. We desire to be in his presence, we seek to know him more through prayer and scripture, and to participate in the sacraments if we a part of a sacramental church. We seek to love and serve God and one another.
Might not this be the kingdom Jesus is talking about when he instructed the disciples how to pray? “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom in us and that his will be accomplished through us.
As earthly kingdoms experience the rise of enemies with whom they have to do battle, so also does God’s kingdom in us have to do battle with God’s enemy, the devil. The devil constantly strives to lure us away from God’s kingdom into his kingdom. But God equips us for this spiritual battle with prayer, his word, the Church’s sacraments and the Holy Spirit. He provides us with supporting allies in our brothers and sisters in Christ and the Church.
For a number of years I have been meeting every Tuesday evening with a small group of men to share our lives and Christian faith. We are of diverse backgrounds – a retired school teacher, a former Army intelligence officer, a senior executive with a large government agency, a retired attorney and a Catholic priest. We have diverse opinions on lots of different subjects, but we are all seeking to grow deeper in our faith. While each of us is capable of messing up, we are at the same time experiencing a taste of the kingdom of God though one another.
When will the Kingdom of God come? When we love Jesus, obey his teaching and invite the Father and Jesus to make their home in us.