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Earth as it Is in Heaven"
talked about a kingdom in which God's will would be done "on earth
as it is in heaven." It would be a kingdom without territory or
boundaries: you could not say, "here it is or there." Rather,
it would fill the whole earth as yeast permeates a loaf of bread or
salt permeates a dish of food. Luke calls this hidden kingdom the "kingdom
of God." (Matthew calls it the "kingdom of Heaven," not
because it is in heaven, but because his Jewish-Christian audience had
a taboo against uttering the name of God.) Most strikingly, Jesus proclaimed
that the kingdom of God was not a dream for the future but a present
reality for those who seek it. "The kingdom of God is in the midst
of you," he told his disciples.
Jesus pointed to many surprising examples of citizens of the kingdom
through characters in his stories and among people he met: a member
of a heretical religious sect, the Samaritans, who helped a man in need;
a Roman soldier, most likely a pagan, who nevertheless demonstrated
his faith in the power of God; the wayward son of a wealthy father who
spent his inheritance in riotous living but returned to his father in
desperation because he had nowhere else to turn; a prostitute who washed
Jesus feet with her tears; a beggar at a rich man's door; children at
play, in all their spontaneity. Concern about these people's religious
belief systems is notably absent, even downplayed, in these examples.
Rather, Jesus' examples are simple people, in touch with something real
at the core of their humanity.
When a rich young
ruler asked how he could enter the kingdom of God, Jesus challenged
him to give away his wealth, something he could not bring himself to
do. When Nicodemus sought out Jesus in the night, Jesus told him that
despite his status as a respected religious leader, he had no true spiritual
understanding and would have to start over from the beginning like a
newborn child. It is not that wealth, power, social status, or adherence
to religious dogma disqualify a person from membership in the kingdom
of God. It is just that these things can give us the illusion of invulnerability
or superiority and alienate us from our human condition and our fellow
man. God dwells within each person and is met at the core of our being
when all else is stripped away.
The Gospel of John
describes a "light that enlightens every man". That inner
light is the very presence of God within. If we acknowledge the presence
of God in each person we meet, our human relationships are transformed.
If we live in the light of God's presence in our own life, God's love
expresses itself through us. Only as we walk in that light will God's
will be done on earth as it is in heaven.