It is from my green, mixed fabric, plush, and comfy throne that I tend to my own personal kingdom. It is my kingdom of comfort, and in my kingdom I know all and rule all. I have control of my kingdom and I have complete knowledge of what takes place. Like me, you have your own kingdom of comfort. It is your home, your house, your career, and your family. All of these things are within your realm.
A little over 2000 years ago a new way of looking at the world was introduced by Jesus of Nazareth. He spoke of the Kingdom of God. He did not speak of it in terms of the future, but of the present. He was ushering in the Kingdom of God, and for the next two millennia people would debate what exactly that meant. Their conclusions would cause problems, wars, inquisitions, executions and revolutions. For some, this kingdom was a hardnosed way of thinking and meant servitude to a religious sect or order. For others, the Kingdom of God was a lifetime of spreading the ideals set forth by Jesus. Still for others, the Kingdom of God was not a set of ideas, or a set of traditions, but a way of life. I happen to be a part of that last group. The Kingdom I read about in the Bible, and the teachings of Jesus is not a kingdom based on placing myself above someone else, or placing myself on a seat of judgment. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom where love is the ruling force, and where genuine care and concern for others is paramount.
That sounds fantastically easy right? Might even sound like I’m looking through a double thick set of rose colored glasses, but I’m not. Love is a far more difficult thing than we like to admit. So often we become confused by the Hollywood idea of love. You know the type, where everything works out serendipitously and the guy gets the girl, money is always in the bank, and the problems are all solved within a two hour time block. It is a plastic version of reality, and most of us know that very well. Unfortunately, love does not work that way. It takes work. It takes real hard, grueling work to love someone. The reason it is difficult is because love on many fronts challenges our comfort zones. Newlyweds fight over boundaries as they learn how to live with one another. Old married couples struggle with complacency in their marriages. Parents deal with children who will not obey. Love, once we move past the initial chemical release becomes a chore, something we have to daily decide to do.
When we allow someone else to invade our kingdom, we soon realize that they begin to shape it to meld with their kingdom. They want to be comfortable too, therein lies the problem. We don’t like change as a general rule. I, for instance, like my chair to by in a certain spot. When someone moves it, I get a little fussy. When the people we are supposed to love do something out of character, something that threatens our kingdoms of comfort, we get very upset. Our world has to move a bit, and our borders have to change. Small things we can tolerate, but large wholesale changes we cannot. Family tragedies destroy our sense of comfort. New marriages mess with our sense of where we belong in the order of our lives. Children constantly seek to control in one way or another. Thus we are forced to make decisions as to how we will react within the confines of the world we have built, and sometimes these decisions can be quite painful. Sometimes we have to make wholesale changes in the shape of our kingdom.
Likewise when our kingdom comes into contact with the Kingdom of God there is a sense of friction that exists. The friction comes from the fact that God asks us to do many things that are beyond our comfort zones. We are thus forced to redefine the borders we hold. We have to adjust ways of thinking, rules that we have developed about dealing with people and other matters become something we must reexamine. As a Christian, we are called to love. That call means that we must see people, and even groups of people with a different set of eyes. The people who would normally receive your ire must receive instead, your prayers, more than that they must receive your care. Our comfort zones of opinion and attitude must be changed within the borders of the kingdom of God. It is a call to look beyond our immediate concerns and see a bigger picture of humanity.
But what if we don’t share the same faith? What if instead of living inside the kingdom of God we rather stay inside our own realms of existence? What does love look like then? I believe it must look the same. Love is a universal concept. More than that, it can be traced to a chemical reaction that takes place within our bodies raising the levels of certain proteins and brain signals. Our minds literally change when we experience feelings of love. I recently saw a program on this very thing on TV (PBS I think). On this program they student certain chemicals, whose names escape me at the moment, in several real world situations. They checked for these chemicals in brand new mothers and fathers. They checked the same chemicals in a bride and groom at a wedding, and even in people as they went about their daily lives. In all of these tests they were able to track what I will dub “chemical love”. Whatever chemical is released in our brains, it moves us. It puts us in a mindset to do something we might normally not do. The song writers were right, love is a powerful thing.
In that same notion of the chemicals of our bodies moving us we are still encountered with the same question. What do we do when the chemical reaction fades? The answer on either side of fence (religion or science), is that we still must choose to love in some capacity. We must make a conscious decision to act in ways that show our love to other people. So I ask for the sake of conversation, person of faith or otherwise, what does love look like in your kingdom? How does one show love in a daily sense? How do we move past the plasticized concepts of love that we get from entertainment?