** 20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (CEB)
** 20-21 Later, he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he gave them this reply: “The kingdom of God never comes by watching for it. Men cannot say, ‘Look, here it is’, or ‘there it is’, for the kingdom of God is inside you.” (PHILLIPS)
** 20 One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God begin?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘It has begun here in this place or there in that part of the country.’ For the Kingdom of God is within you.” (TLB)
** 20 Some Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He answered, “God’s kingdom isn’t something you can see. 21 There is no use saying, ‘Look! Here it is’ or ‘Look! There it is.’ God’s kingdom is here with you.” [or in your hearts] (CEV)
[Scriptures taken from: the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide; The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserve; J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins; Contemporary English Version, Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society.]
[Image: “ Commons The Escape to the Unknown” by Andre Bohrer, used under CC BY 2.0]
Luke 17:20-21 — Considering the Kingdom of God
Much confusion has been spread throughout the history of Christianity by the use of the term kingdom of God / heaven. This “kingdom” has been projected outward, intending an alternative to the kingdoms of the world, which do not measure up to the standards of the kingdom of God / heaven. I would argue that the kingdom is, for Yeshua*, a metonymy for the presence of God. A metonymy is the use of one thing to refer to that which is associated with it — for example, the White House to refer to the President or to the President’s staff. So, kingdom of God / heaven is simply a metonomy for God’s presence. But the simplicity ends there.
Yeshua locates the kingdom (that is, the very presence of the Divine, Spirit, Mystery, God) in the interior realms of the human spirit, rather than out there as an alternative political or administrative, or even religious institution. The kingdom of God / heaven is “among you,” inside you,” within you,” and/or “in your hearts.” That is a radical turning of theological reflection. If you want to find God’s presence in this world, don’t look ‘out there’ — “God’s kingdom isn’t something you can see.” It is not about history or geography. Instead, you must experience it in your inward being. Israel believed that God took up residence “among them” — the Holy of Holies in theTemple being YHWH’s footstool. The church believes that God took up residence in Yeshua — Immanuel, God incarnate. (It might be more accurate to say the Yeshua* took up residence in God.) Yeshua*, however, resisted all attempts by his disciples and opponents to make him God (or even God’s special one). Instead, Yeshua’s* experience at his baptism and his subsequent teaching clearly places the presence of God (and the experience of God) within — within him, of course; but also within everyone else. It is interesting to note that Yeshua* did not suggest that the kingdom could be experienced internally if only you thought right, believed right, lived right, belonged to the right religion, performed the right rituals, … No, Yeshua* taught that God is already here inside / within / among you.
The kingdom therefore has two sides:
- the inner dynamic which I have called the “God-process*,” a term I have borrowed from Elizabeth Boyden Howes. She identifies Yeshua* as the catalyst for the divine-human process. He is able to mobilize such activity in others because he ascended from the waters of baptism and emerged from his wilderness with a deep sense of call to relocate “the God-process* from Transcendence to Immanence in the Self, to incarnation, and it exacted everything.” He knew that his own vocation was to invite, call, and nurture others to “sell all” for the kingdom — that is, for the inner God-process*.
- the outer dynamic which I call the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice. This outer dynamic is the projection of the results of “selling all” inwardly, writ large (that is, the projection of the collective possibilities which are actually open to all of us individually). Howes describes the inner God-process* as a movement “where love overcomes all the negatives of repression.” The Commonwealth* is that same movement where love overcomes our collective negativities of repression, where “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; [and] righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” (Psalm 80:10)
The history of the Christian church has seen Yeshua* become the object of devotion and worship, hailed as God incarnate, the second person of the triune God. He has been made into the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, the Redeemer, Emmanuel, the Word made flesh. Ironically, his own words seem to pale into insignificance. He did not say the kingdom of God is to be located only within him, but within “you.” He sorted through all the possibilities in an intense inner wilderness adventure and it became crystal clear to him that what he was experiencing (and what he was yet to experience) was open and accessible to everyone — namely a life of intimacy with God, a life described as abundant living, inner wholeness and outer integrity, a life of compassion, peace, and justice.