Living in Between

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”

Luke 17:21

Throughout his ministry, Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom of God. Yet, what he proclaimed was confusing to those who heard him, including both his closest admirers and his bitterest opponents. We can understand this confusion—and perhaps share in it—as we read the final verses of Luke 17. Jesus begins by saying that “the Kingdom of God is already among you” (17:21). Then he talks about the coming of the Son of Man, that which Jews would associate with the kingdom of God, as a future event. So which is it? Present or future? And where is the kingdom, anyway?

For several months before my summer break, I was meandering through the Gospel of Luke. At many points, I stopped to reflect on how Jesus revealed the kingdom of God to be something both present and future. Theologians talk about the “already and not yet” presence of the kingdom. It is already present, yet not fully present. It is here, yet still to come.

Thus, until the kingdom of God comes in completion sometime in the future, we live “in between.” We are in between the first coming of Jesus and his second coming. We are in between the introduction of the kingdom of God and its full and final revelation. God reigns in our lives and our world today. Yet both we and our world are not fully aligned under God’s sovereignty. We live in the already and not yet-reality of the kingdom.

If you like things to be cut and dried, if you prefer everything in black and white, then Jesus’ message of the kingdom will be unsettling to you. But don’t feel alone. His message has been troubling people for two millennia.

Yet, the more we grapple with our in-between reality, the more we’ll be able to live faithfully in a world that can be so discouraging. We’ll seek justice for the oppressed even though justice will never fully come. We’ll strive to live completely for the Lord, even though our own sin will keep showing its ugly head. We’ll work to build loving community, but not be surprised when tensions arise. Yet, in our disappointments, we’ll experience the presence and power, indeed, the kingdom of God.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever wonder how the kingdom of God can be present and future? In what ways do you experience life as an “in-between” reality? How have you experienced the presence of God’s kingdom in your life and work? When you yearn for the future kingdom, what do you hope for?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, once again, you make it clear that the kingdom of God is both present and future, though I suppose “clear” isn’t the best term. When it comes to the kingdom, we are indeed seeing through a glass darkly.

Nevertheless, thank you for telling us the truth about the kingdom. Thank you for encouraging us to live and work now under the reign of God. And thank you for giving us hope for the full and final coming of his reign, an event that is closely connected to your glorious return as the Son of Man.

As we live in between, as we experience the already and not-yet kingdom, give us patience and perseverance. Give us hope and confidence. Help us to live more and more for you, in you, and by your strength. Amen.

P.S. from Mark: I have written quite extensively about Jesus’ answer to the question “When is the kingdom of God coming?” You can find my thoughts in my blog series: What Was the Message of Jesus?