You’ve probably heard that “heaven is a place on Earth.” You’ve also probably heard that at any point, Earth will become an apocalyptic hellfire where the Kingdom of God will uplift the righteous and let everyone else burn.
Yeah. That’s a lot to take in. We have two opposing narratives at play, and they each come with a certain mentality about God, our environment, and, really, how we approach life altogether. Where you place your value and spiritual intentions matters.
In a world where it already feels apocalyptic, it’s understandable to doubt whether God’s around at all. We hold faith in whatever keeps our spirits afloat amid disaster and turmoil. Perhaps we’ve just reached the point where God seems dead. Trust me, I understand all too well.
But today I want to provide some sense of hope, even when everything is crumbling around you. Where is the Kingdom of God? Well, it’s right here. Within you. It’s always in your grasp. That’s a hope you can count on.
What is the “Kingdom of God”?
The biggest question here, since I’m sure you’re already asking it, is what I’m even referring to. The Kingdom of God seems so elusive, so abstract. Really, it sounds like some cloud utopia with angels and rainbows galore.
That specific imagery, what we may usually describe as “Heaven”, has been constantly drilled into our Christian-centric minds. The Creation story, depicting God as an outside Creator planting whatever He wants on the planet, assumes God to be distant. If we really want to tell the story, He’s like the omniscient third-person narrator.
But here’s the problem: if God is far off, light years away, then everything on Earth seems…disposable. Just a bunch of matter and materials that don’t have spiritual value. We can hug the trees or tear them down, and it ultimately wouldn’t “matter” in the long run.
What’s the problem with this view?
Have I answered your question yet? I figured not. What I have done is show you what I first learned about the Kingdom of God and how many people view it. Thinking about Scripture, it’s as if we took the first book (Genesis) and the last book (Revelation), maybe some prophets’ visions (think Daniel and Ezekiel), but discarded the rest. Even Moses’s interactions with God portray Him as an entirely far-away entity.
Why is that problematic? Well…have you looked outside today? Read or watched the news? We’re inundated with the devastating reality that our climate is changing dangerously, people are sick and starving, and injustice runs rampant. If you think the Kingdom of God is beyond the world as we know it, you can essentially bypass everything. Why take care of the environment when God will save us?
Or, another way to think of it: maybe you’re doing plenty of good things in the world, helping others and Creation, but your intentions behind your actions are solely to “get into Heaven.” Your life and existence are just to prove your worthiness, try to win God’s favor. That amplifies your own human ego and, in turn, belittles the value of others who are “worse off.”
Okay, so…what is the “Kingdom of God”?
The flip side of the view we’ve been dissecting thus far is one much more symmetrical. Specifically, we’re seeing humanity as a part of a circle, rather than the top of the pyramid. This also pulls immensely from Earth-based traditions that find the Divine at the core of all nature. Everything and every being are connected.
That connection also reflects God’s presence. The health of the environment, air, animals, and rest of humanity are extensions of our own well-being. The same elements and molecules that compose our bodily cells also compose distant stars, rising ocean tides, and rugged elephant hide. We are One.
Jesus Himself, whom we might see as our exit ticket out of this earthly “hellscape,” preached not that the Kingdom of God is about to arrive, but that the Kingdom of God is already here, waiting to be fully embraced.
Have you discovered it yet?
I believe this expansive Universe we live in is the Kingdom of God. We are here, and we are called to really see and acknowledge it. It’s our responsibility and higher calling to make that spiritual value known.
It’s not an easy job at hand. I mean, just look. One might say the world is already in an inevitable downhill spiral that will only worsen from here.
But with that mentality, what are you looking at? If you expect “sin” and “evil,” that’s what you will find.
What if you hear the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot? Look into the eyes of a treasured loved one or amiable passing stranger? Witness a simple kind gesture or breathtaking act of humanitarianism? Whatever little moments bring you joy and peace, those are glimpses of God. Even in the places you least expect it.
Spiritually bypassing and ignoring whatever injustice ensues outside is, simultaneously, neglecting the Kingdom of God. We’re called to steward its progress and to be active participants. And the great wisdom teachers and (often) religious figures tell us just that: fully love in every moment. Love through the obvious ways, but especially through social and environmental justice.
This is no easy feat for us, let alone seeing God in the faces of those we may despise. I believe in the grander tapestry we’re weaving, an artwork we as humans will never fully comprehend. But there is an ultimate good, not after bodily death in a distant galaxy, but in our immediate lens.
Would you change how you live knowing that this is the Kingdom of God? That good deeds aren’t for paying back “sinfulness,” but to bring forth greater, expansive purpose?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
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