Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, Look, here it is! or There! for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. -- Luke 17:20-21
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
How critical can a preposition be? It seems rather important here. Various translations may tell us that the kingdom is within us or among us. The most literal seems to be that given in the ESV “in the midst of you,” which remains slightly ambiguous.
If the kingdom is among us, the emphasis would fall on community and our relationships one with another. Most of our concern would be focused on dealing with all around us in a righteous and loving way. We would do our best to put the needs of others before our own and follow the Golden Rule: whatever we others to do for us, we will do the same for them.
If the kingdom, though, is within us, we would before all other things attempt to have Christ indwelling us as individuals in mystical union. We would try to live right and always do the right thing so as to not grieve the Holy Spirit, for everything would depend upon Him and His presence in our lives.
Fortunately, we do not need to worry about which reading is correct. In essence both views are correct. Some of us are inclined to a mystical approach, others to the expression of love in word and deed. So long as our motivation is communion with God and citizenship in the kingdom, the end will be the same. Christ will indwell Martha when she is working and Mary when she is listening. Jesus did not chide Martha because she was trying to feed everyone and get everything in line but only because she allowed herself to be distracted from Him. Now the Spirit may fully inhabit our lives and possess our attention and devotion while we go about doing our work and taking care of the needs of others.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to retreat once in a while and be refreshed – just you and the Lord, but He is always in our midst.