“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight…. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here” (John 18:36).
When Jesus says His kingdom is not of this world, we tend to think of location. What if Jesus is talking about source, something qualitative? My kingdom is not out from this world; my kingdom doesn’t source from this world; it is qualitatively different. My kingdom originates in a different mindset, nature, and motivation. As opposed to worldly kingdoms that dominate people, Jesus serves and gives His life (Mark 10:42-45).
“The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
Jesus could be saying the kingdom of God is an inner reality and reign. Or, He could be saying “the kingdom of God is among you,” which evokes 1 John 4:12–“No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.” God is love. The kingdom of God is love reigning between each person.
Perhaps Jesus wants us to hear both meanings. The kingdom of God is within us. God’s inner presence manifests among us as love. We know love because Jesus laid down His life (1 John 3:16). The kingdom of God is evident in a community where its members lay down their lives for each other.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33).
What if we sought first this qualitatively different kingdom, which doesn’t source from this world; this kingdom of Christ, who lays down His life within; this kingdom of people laying down their lives for each other? The community described in Acts may give us a glimpse of such a kingdom:
“Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house” (Acts 2:44-46).
I’ve often thought about Matthew 6:33 mystically: God will take care of me as I center my life around Him. While that’s true, these verses from Acts bring it down to earth. As people seek the kingdom of God together, He provides everything they need through one another. This isn’t about forming a commune or dissolving private property. We see they met in houses people owned. And if no one owns anything, no one can truly give, which is what characterizes the kingdom.
Though talking about worship services, Paul brings a similar vision in 1 Corinthians:
“Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26).
Here, everyone in the body has something from the Lord to share. What a rich service that would be! Many modern services are anemic in comparison. Paul did not envision a gathering where only a few paid staff minister to a crowd of passive recipients.
This is not to discount spiritual gifts; not everyone will speak, sing, or minister in a church service. There are many ways to express the life of the Lord within and to contribute to God’s people. Paul’s description of a Christian gathering illustrates the same kingdom reality found in Acts: people truly living as one in Christ.
“From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part” (Eph. 2:16).
Jesus, give us grace to live wholly for your kingdom, and to realize the vision for which you prayed: “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me” (John 17:21).