Summary: Kingdom living means: 1. We live with an awareness of the kingdom. 2. We understand that the kingdom is within. 3. We experience the blessing of his reign. 4. We are a part of a subversive movement. 5. We wait for it expectantly.
Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon begin their book Resident Aliens with a story from their youth: “Sometime between 1960 and 1980, an old, inadequately conceived world ended, and a fresh, new world began. . . . When and how did we change? Although it may sound trivial, one of us is tempted to date the shift sometime on a Sunday evening in 1963. Then, in Greenville, South Carolina, in defiance of the state’s time-honored blue laws, the Fox Theater opened on Sunday. Seven of us — regular attenders of the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Buncombe Street Church — made a pact to enter the front door of the church, be seen, then quietly slip out the back door and join John Wayne at the Fox. That evening has come to represent a watershed in the history of Christendom, South Carolina style. On that night, Greenville, South Carolina — the last pocket of resistance to secularity in the Western world — served notice that it would no longer be a prop for the church. There would be no more free passes for the church, no more free rides. The Fox Theater went head to head with the church over who would provide the world view for the young. That night in 1963, the Fox Theater won the opening skirmish. You see, our parents never worried about whether we would grow up Christian. The church was the only show in town. . . . Church, home and state formed a national consortium that worked together to instill ‘Christian values.’ People grew up Christian simply by being lucky enough to be born in places like Greenville, South Carolina, or Pleasant Grove, Texas. . . . A few years ago, the two of us awoke and realized that, whether or not our parents were justified in believing this about the world and the Christian faith, nobody believed it today. At least, almost nobody. . . . All sorts of Christians are waking up and realizing that it is no longer ‘our world’ — if it ever was.”
It is obvious to anyone paying much attention that we are no longer a “Christian nation” — if we ever were, as Willimon said. It does not take long in the average conversation, or the average sitcom, to realize that we are not only a non-Christian culture, we have become an anti-Christian culture. The question is how do we live in a world that has abandoned God? What do you do when you realize that you are living in a completely different universe than many of the people in the world around you? The apostle Peter addressed this question when he said: “. . . what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
All of this has to do with perhaps the most important concept in the New Testament. It is a concept that is the foundation for almost everything that Jesus said and taught. The single thing that Jesus talked about more frequently than anything else was the kingdom of God. So often he began his teaching with the phrase, “The kingdom of God is like. . . .” Jesus wanted us to live in the kingdom of God.
But what does kingdom living look like. First of all, kingdom living means that: We live with an awareness of the kingdom of God. Many Christians live as though the visible world is the only real world, and seem to have no awareness that we are surrounded by another world which is more real than the world that we come into contact with each day through touch and sight. The Bible admonishes us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
In the film The Matrix, we are taken to the year 2199. The world has been taken over and is being run by AI: artificial intelligence. Harvested humans live in a computer generated dreamworld of artificial reality, never understanding that they are captives of an evil empire. But there are a few people still connected enough to reality who discover the Matrix. What they see is that there are two worlds now. One is evil, and it depends on control and deception. It is an unreal world. The other is the real world, even though it would not be seen as such by those caught up in the Matrix. There is a great deal of religious symbolism in the film, and it picks up on the biblical theme of the kingdom of God and its opposition to the kingdom of evil. In the movie, Morpheus tries to explain the Matrix and says to Neo: “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”