How does the Kingdom of God unfold? In other words, how does God bring about God’s reign, right here and right now.
This isn’t a new question. The Romans believed they were carrying out the gods’ commands.
In addition to ownership of resources, military force, and working relationships with the elite, emperors secured their power by claiming the favor of the gods. Their imperial theology proclaimed that Rome was chosen by the gods, notably Jupiter, to rule an “empire without end.” Rome was chosen to manifest the gods’ rule, presence, and favor throughout the world.
(Source: The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide by Warren Carter, pg. 7)
If this argument sounds familiar, it is because it is. Substitute in America for Rome and Jesus for Jupiter. There are even Christian pastors who are pretty good at preaching this type of gospel. It’s a message of comfort to wrap Jesus in the flag.
But is it the unfolding of the Kingdom of God?
Maybe God does use nations to unfold God’s Kingdom and reign. I think there are some good examples of this. But I also don’t think God really cares much about our imaginary lines drawn on maps separating people from one another.
I also have trouble with the idea that we are special compared to other people in other places and different times in history. I don’t buy the idea that God has been waiting around until just this time and place for us to show up to carry out God’s will. I think God is always active throughout history in a variety of places.
How does the Kingdom of God unfold? One person at a time, but in many places, and across time. It’s like a ripple effect that once one person is touched by an encounter with God, it reverberates out from that person. This is how God always works.