We cannot understand the kingdom of God without acknowledging a certain kind of life. In the teachings of Jesus, the life and the kingdom are almost interchangeable, and at the heart of his description of the kingdom is the promise of John 10:10. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
What is this abundant life? I believe the blueprints for life in the kingdom are written on our hearts. This is why we long so deeply for it. I believe the plans for the abundant life are written in our desires.
I am not referring to our surface desires. I want a new car and a vacation in the United Kingdom, but I don’t think God created me to drive a comfortable car or tour the sites of Arthurian legend. These desires are like breadcrumbs, which, if we choose to examine, will lead us to our deeper desires, the seeds of the abundant life. If we examine our surface desires and ask what we really want, we will discover a longing for love, for joy and for peace. We will find a desire to use our gifts and to use them for something we feel strongly about.
Imagine that for a moment – a life defined by love for all God’s creation, a life full of joy regardless of circumstance, a life marked by a peace rooted in the foundation of your being. Can you imagine? That is the life we are called to. That is the life we were created for, and it is the life that is available today, in part, for disciples of Jesus.
Of course we live in the tension of the “already but not yet.” The kingdom is both a present and a future reality. But let’s not neglect the present for the sake of the future. Let’s also be clear the abundant life is not financial wealth. Jesus warned that physical wealth is dangerous (Matthew 19:24). And it does not mean a life without pain. Jesus promised we would face trials (John 16:33). The abundant life is simply the life we were created to live. It is a return to Eden, a return to God’s original design for all of his creation. It is the restoration of the relationships damaged in the fall. Shalom means wholeness and peace in our relationship with God. It is the healing of our relationship with ourselves, others, and the rest of God’s creation.
Next: Relationships in the kingdom?