The Journey Group that I am a part of here met at Namikango a week ago. This group of twelve pastors from all over Malawi gathers every month and a half to fellowship together and study the Bible. The last few times we have met, we have been meditating on the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by the author of Matthew. Particularly, we have been reflecting on the Kingdom of God and what Jesus meant when he announced that it was indeed at hand.
Through the conversations in this group, which are always exceptional, we have been talking about the already here Kingdom, and how Jesus was very concerned with the here and now, and less concerned with the “ever after” part of existence. It seems that every time Jesus was asked about heaven, or life “on that side,” he redirects the question to the here and now, and states that the Kingdom of God is at hand now, and can be grasped today if we are only prepared to receive it. The ministry of Jesus is all about reconciliation between God and humanity, and between us and our neighbor. These things are so important, in fact, that Jesus claims that it is more worship-ful to leave a religious practice and be reconciled with your neighbor, then to worship with a broken relationship (Matthew 5:21-26).
Indeed, when the lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (future-oriented), Jesus tells him to love God and neighbor, and by doing so will live now (here-and-now oriented). When the lawyer pushes Jesus further, he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, and ends the parable by saying, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).
In fact, as the Sermon on the Mount concludes, Jesus spends time telling his disciples that they should be less concerned with tomorrow and what is coming (the future-oriented Kingdom of God), and should rather be concerned with today (the already, being-established, Kingdom). In fact, Jesus exhorts the disciples and the crowds to seek after the Kingdom of God right now, not to wait for the Kingdom of God to come and find you and whisk you away (Matthew 6:25-34). We are to seek this Kingdom today, and the righteousness of God as well, and in so doing live out the Sermon on the Mount to the best of our abilities.