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The Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God Edit

"A mistake about Creation will necessarily result in a mistake about God." — St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Contra Gentiles II. 2. 3)

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As our understanding of the Universe matures and deepens, so, too, will our understanding of the meaning and magnitude of the Kingdom of Heaven (Kingdom of God). If it doesn't, we're doing God, our children, and the entire body of life a terrible disservice.

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The Kingdom of God was central to Jesus' teaching, and for good reason. However, for him and his disciples, the idea of God's kingdom was nothing so trivial as a far off, otherworldly place. Rather, for Jesus, God's Kingdom was an inspiring vision of a religious, political, economic, and social reality, grounded in the Being and activity of God, which had a visible, measurable dimension as well as an invisible, non-measurable (spiritual) dimension.

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To imagine "The Kingdom of God" as being some static, unchanging place within or outside of time and space is to disembowel this central New Testament concept of its power.

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Evolutionary directionality changes everything. Now that we know that Creation as a whole is becoming more interdependent and aware over time, and that humans and our supportive technologies are an integral part of this process, the Lord's prayer "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven" can be seen as having a depth and breadth of meaning that previous generations could not have known. In light of evolutionary directionality, the Kingdom of Heaven can now be understood in a more comprehensive, meaningful, and this-world realistic way than ever before.

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God's kingdom is the realm of divine presence and activity where the 14 billion year "Way of God" (what the Chinese call "the Tao") is honored — where evolution is progressing in the direction of greater cooperation, interdependence, awareness, and intimacy with itself and God at ever increasing scale and evolvability.

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Keeping the analogy of nesting dolls in mind...when a person, living on-purpose, treats the larger Whole of which he or she is a part as their larger Self, and loves it as such, that person is furthering the work of God's Kingdom no matter what their beliefs.

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The Kingdom of God is where the practical values of which Jesus spoke in the "Sermon on the Mount" and elsewhere, and the spiritual values he embodied (incarnated) in his own life and ministry, reign supreme.

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There is both an inner (psychological-spiritual) and an outer (social-political-economic) dimension to the Kingdom of God.

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The Kingdom of Heaven is an eternally true concept (true for everyone, everywhere, at all times) that is seriously corrupted when it is seen as having to do merely, or primarily, with the realm of time (later) or space (somewhere else).

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When I repent and ask Christ into my heart — that is, when I accept that there is a larger reality than my ego at work in the world and that I'm accountable; when I get real with myself and others, own the painful truth about my life (and the fact that God loves me anyway), and live with integrity; when I make amends and clean up the messes I've made from living unconsciously, addictively, or self-centeredly; and when I serve others or bless the world — I dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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When I step into the shoes of my adversary (my enemy, spouse, boss, child, parent, estranged friend), see things from their perspective, and speak from that place; when I comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and actively, nonviolently resist the unredeemed powers that be; and when I work to right wrongs or ensure a just, healthy, beautiful, and sustainably lifegiving world for future generations — I dwell in the Kindgom of Heaven.

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When I quiet my mind by shifting from thinking to noticing; when I simultaneously pay attention to the sensations and sound of my breath and the beating of my heart; when I find the gift and the blessing in whatever is real; and when I allow feelings, circumstances, and relationships to be vehicles of God's grace and guidance — I dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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When I'm on-purpose, attending to where my great joy and the world's great needs intersect, I dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Individually, living in the Kingdom of Heaven is evidenced by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. What is "the fruit of the Spirit"? The Apostle Paul spoke of it as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." To this list we could also add "compassion, courage, integrity, self-responsibility, generosity, and passion for life." Those who evidence such fruit are living in the Kingdom of Heaven now, no matter what their beliefs. Those who do not evidence such fruit are not. It's really as simple as that.

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Collectively, living in the Kingdom is evidenced by grounding the evolutionary impulse toward widening circles of cooperation, interdependence, awareness, and compassion in our social, political, economic, educational, political, and religious institutions. This means, among other things, simultaneously inviting people into a transformed and transforming relationship with the Whole (evangelizing) and working for peace, justice, and environmental sustainability. But (and this is important to remember) the collective embodiment of God's Kingdom goes way beyond reconciling people and organizations to the social structures that now exist. It means re-incarnating Christ-like values at every level of our common existence.

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The Great Work of the Kingdom in the 21st century, which is already emerging, is designing and co-creating a just and equitable system of local, regional, and global governance in which individuals, corporations, and nation-states significantly benefit from cooperating and serving the common good, and significantly pay for not cooperating or harming the common good. That is, where there are truly effective incentives for doing the right thing and equally effective disincentives for lying, cheating, polluting, dominating, or otherwise doing the wrong thing.

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"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven" cannot possibly mean less than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us as a species in nurturing a symbiotic, mutually enhancing relationship with each other, with the larger body of life (nature) and with our own creations (arts, technology, social systems, etc), and doing so to the glory of God — that is, honoring the wisdom of the Whole. This is our destiny as a species, and the church will play a significant and role in this process in the decades to come.

Resources Edit

"Let's Stop Trivializing God, the Universe, and Our Role in Evolution!" - foundational essay

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