“But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.” (I John 1:7)
The above verse is my most favorite verse in the entire Bible. Notice its conditional nature. In order to have such wonderful fellowship and joy with one another, and to be living in the Kingdom, we need to be living in the light of God’s presence, which is the Light of Love.
Of course, the traditional ways of growing spiritually need to be actively engaged in, such as studying the Scriptures, praying, and staying connected to other serious Christian leadership and lay persons. But, what we need to do is to actively practice growing in our capacity to love, in the pure and healthy sense of the term. As a young girl, going through confirmation classes, my pastor taught me that the greatest sin is the omission of love. True love is perfect relationship, whereas, on the other hand, sin has been conceived of as being separated from God, others, and even our own selves.
We need to progressively seek to remove from our lives all sinning, including any habits that are even “a little bit shady!” We need to focus on the interests and activities concerning the Kingdom, and to continue to divest ourselves of carnal interests, such as enmeshment with material objects, concern about our status and prestige in the world, and spending our time with carnal entertainments. We need to not participate in any kind of violence against any other living being or the earth itself, even indirectly, as much as possible. Christ came to bring life and not pain and death. All the above can be quite difficult, because we continue to have to live in our culture, and to rely on that culture to meet so many of our needs. Kingdom living and growth is not for wimps! Such growth will probably engage us for most or all of our years. But, as we live more and more in His Kingdom, we will realize more and more how we should live, as led by the Holy Spirit, and our attitudes and interests will continually shift and be remolded as we move along.
We need to practice loving those around us – the earth, humans, animals, and even ourselves – being active, engaged caregivers and dispensers of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We need to be “connected” in healthy, wholesome, faithful relationships. We need to build strong, enduring friendships. As we develop healthy relationships, we get to know others more fully, and our love, compassion, and empathy blossom. We can help others grow in their lovingness a great deal by loving them. We shouldn’t expect God to do all the loving. He told us to love others, too. Such loving others can heal mountains of old hurts, and fill others with warmth and joy so they can reach out to still others. We unavoidably affect others continually, for better or worse.
Well, in summary, it appears to me that living life in His Kingdom is for those with the courage and heart to keep persevering always. The quest will change us. We will be increasingly different from most of those around us. In that sense, we will be separate, and “in the world but not of the world.” But, the rewards are incredible. Happiness, peace, love, and joy beyond belief!
Christ wants us. Do we love Him enough and do we love those around us enough to keep going? - To keep stretching? Do we have, in theologian Paul Tillich’s words, ‘The Courage To Be” all that God wants us to be?
Dr. Joyce firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2007