Jesus revealed God as our Father, inviting everyone into that meaningful, mysterious, and wonderful relationship. By relating to God as his son or daughter, we find him as our Father. For Jesus, the kingdom of God is the family of those who accept in faith their status as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus expressed his open and welcoming invitation very diversely. He began his Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes; the first beatitude is the gateway to the others: “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” If someone comes to the Father or Jesus or one of his gospel messengers wanting to enter the kingdom of God, it is a simple matter. To be poor in spirit refers to sincerity, humility, openness. “Poor in spirit” means “humble” in Aramaic, the language in which Jesus taught; we enter the kingdom as a child, by faith. A prideful person will not enter as a child. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” To be born again, to begin the new life as a child of God, we return to the simplicity of our primary relation with our Father.
Divine love does not insist on any particular name. Each person is free to choose the name that expresses his or her relationship with God as they have found him.
The very act of seeking expresses faith. Jesus’ assurance was “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.” “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The wise Parent responds with good gifts. Persons who really want to be in the family of God are already happy because their sincere desire is evidence that God has already found them. They are members in the family, and realizing that brings happiness. Jesus’ assurance to the seeker communicates faith and love; the person who receives that assurance discovers the happiness of being welcomed into the family of God.
Jesus used the term “kingdom of God” to communicate with the expectations of his place and time. He expanded their concept by using this term with multiple meanings. In Jesus’ teaching, the kingdom of God was present and future, inner and outer, an experience of the individual and a destiny for the planet, a link between heaven and earth, a joyous celebration, and a living reality that grows from a tiny seed of faith into a total commitment that can cost one’s life. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is at hand—now. The kingdom is within you—a present experience in the life of the believer. The kingdom is also in our world’s future. Jesus prayed, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus’ total commitment was to the Father’s will—and he showed an equally energetic antagonism to actions that rebelled against the Father’s will. At one point, Jesus defined his family as “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven.” For the most part, the kingdom concept is expressed in family language, which also has multiple meanings. One becomes a son or daughter of God by faith; but it is also true that all are the children of God. Jesus’ parables and his way of loving all people, Jew and gentile, proclaim an inclusive message of a universal family (next post).
What meanings are most real for you as you think of belonging in the family of God? How to you express those realities to others? What obstacles do people experience regarding the concept of the family of God? How do you respond to those obstacles?