The imperfection of our democratic system of government was on full display for millions of Americans to watch and evaluate over the past twenty-four hours, if not the past six weeks or so. Despite nine hours of riveting testimony from the accused and his accuser, it became evident that we were no closer to knowing with certainty what took place some 35 plus years ago, somewhere at an unknown place and an unknown time in the summer of 1982.
Although the final outcome on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh is still undecided, what is undeniable is that both “sides” on this nomination are deeply committed to their perspective and are very unlikely to change now that both “witnesses” have testified. (Of course, this does not include the handful of ‘undecided’ Senators who must choose when the vote is called for by the Senate Majority Leader).
What all of these proceedings has reminded me of is that we as a people are not yet at a place where the kingdom of God is in full control. The kingdom of God is simply the place where the effects of Jesus’ lordship are demonstrated over the broken issues of life.
Although we may not always associate that rule with life as we know it, there’s much evidence that the kingdom of God is already present where his people declare his lordship and surrender to his will and purpose. This was the seminal message of Jesus when he walked on the planet, incarnated in the flesh two thousand years ago. When Jesus launched his ministry, his message was simple and clear: The kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17). In other words, life as it will be for all of eternity has now invaded our life as we have known it for the previous thousands of years.
As a consequence, what we are called to do is study the life and ministry of Jesus and recognize in everything that he said, did and demonstrated we were seeing what it will be like in the kingdom of God. In every circumstance and in every personal interaction, Jesus demonstrated the righteousness, peace and joy that will forever mark the kingdom of God. There will be no sickness, disease, sorrow, pain, suffering, oppression or warfare in the future kingdom; the one that Jesus demonstrated for us.
However, the balancing truth which must be immediately invoked is that the kingdom of God is “already, but not yet fully realized”. That is to say, we see glimpses of kingdom rule throughout our lives and in our nation and around the world, but we do not yet see where God’s kingdom, that is God’s rule, has been fully realized. Thus, it has been our conviction for centuries that the kingdom of God is “already, but not yet”. We see glimpses of it and certain manifestations of it, but there remains clear evidence that it is not yet fully present anywhere in our existence.
In the kingdom of God, the truth will always be evident, and no one will ever have to wonder “what really happened”. Nothing will be hidden, nothing will be unknown when the Kingdom of God is fully present. This is no small observation. In fact, this is the foundation and basis of the hope that resides in everyone who seeks to follow Christ and believes that the day will come when the Kingdom of God is fully revealed and in place.
If we are to live in this “land in-between”, it is necessary that we participate with God in the revelation of what it looks like when God’s kingdom rules. God did not create us as robots who would have everything worked out in advance according to what He wanted, and for that all of us should be profoundly humbled and grateful. It becomes our responsibility to demonstrate life in the kingdom of God wherever we go and with whomever we relate.
Admittedly, there seems to be many areas where we would like to see God’s kingdom be more clearly manifested and yet it has not yet come to pass. For many of us, we have accepted the fact that we live in a tension between the kingdom of Heaven being “ already … but not yet”. We live within those dots … but sometimes we’re able to bring Kingdom rule into a situation and see it visibly or knowingly manifested right before our eyes. On other occasions, we may seek such a demonstration, but have not been able to see things happen as we had believed or prayed it would.
Two things, in conclusion. First, we must never allow the fact that we don’t quite yet have unlimited access to the kingdom of God in every circumstance as an excuse to not pray for that kingdom life to be manifest in every opportunity that we are given. The lack of answers to prayer or the apparent lack of demonstration of God’s rule is not an excuse to disregard our responsibility to partner with the Holy Spirit in seeing those manifestations. We need to continue to pray for people to be healed, for relationships to be restored, for truth to be known.
Second, we must begin to learn to accept and even embrace the mystery of this dynamic tension. It’s actually in these times that we are privileged to be growing in our relationship with God and our trust in His sovereign hand directing and fulfilling His will and purposes.
If the kingdom of God was fully realized, we would have no doubt about truth telling and or motivations in something as significant as selecting an individual to serve on our court. (in fact, when God’s kingdom is fully present, there won’t be any need for courts because we’ll all be in the presence of the Judge of all the universe!)
In the meantime, it is our responsibility to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” in general terms throughout our daily journey and then to act on those prayers when specifically led to call forth God’s rule over an individual, a family, a group, a church or even a nation. It’s what it means to partner with God and to be a co-laborer in His mission of redeeming the earth for His glory.