Entering the kingdom of God

I am not a theologian. I have not attended doctrinal classes, been educated in a specific religious institution, and did not grow up in a church community or in a family with a religious heritage. I have attended and participated in a large number of church communities from various denominations over the course of the past two and a half decades. Within each of these communities and denominations there may have been different sets of traditions, expectation, doctrines and norms, but at the center of each of them was Jesus, the Christ.

Every one of them taught, in one way or another that God is Love, Jesus is God, and God so loved the world that Jesus came, allowed himself to be sacrificed, and went back to be with God as a means to allow us flawed, broken, and wounded humans a chance to be reconciled with God. That the character and nature of God as exemplified in Jesus is Love.

We have all this pain and suffering in our lives and in our world. We have all these experience where hatred and evil action cause devastation of people and communities. Many times these things are done by people claiming the name of God, Jesus, or Allah. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The same God of the Jews, is the same God of the Muslims, is the same God of the Christians. Father Abraham, who started out as Abram was promised a son. When it didn’t happen within a reasonable and believable way, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who was Sarai, took matters into her own hands and following the laws and customs of the land in that time, had her slave, Hagar, get pregnant as a surrogate. After the fact, Sarah regretted her decision because of how it altered her relationship with Hagar, Hagar’s relationship with Abraham, and Sarah’s thoughts and feelings about it all. She treated Hagar horribly and as a result Hagar ran away with her son Ishmael and was going to let them both die in the desert. God came to her and made her a promise as well. So, both Isaac and Ishmael are son’s of God’s promise. They were half brothers and it is their lines that became the Jewish and Islamic genetic lines. Jesus, the Christ was born of Isaac’s line, so he’s also related to Ishmael’s lines. Christians are adopted into Isaac’s line, so we are all one big unhappy family fighting each other for a father’s love, when the father has enough love for us all.

We take unloving action out of a desperate need to feel and believe that we are loved because we have gotten our perception and definition of love from other, damaged human beings with distorted definitions of what love is. The problem isn’t God’s nature or character, the problem is our characters and natures have been so altered that we can’t trust or believe in that nature. We try to limit God the way we have limited ourselves and others. We put boxes and labels on Him and on His love because we have been labeled and put into boxes ourselves.

I used to believe that I had to know the why of everything and have the “right” answer. I still automatically tend to think and react as though I am the one responsible to “fix” the problem and have the answer. I have felt like a liar and a fraud when I “knew” what the answer was and what the “right” thing to do was and for whatever reason did the wrong thing anyway. As humans, that tends to be how we think things work. We attach things like approval, agreement, tolerance, bias, right and wrong to love. We don’t understand and accept that love is unconditional.

Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was “at hand,” meaning the kingdom of God is present in the here and now, not just as an unattainable, undefined, mysterious thing that happens after we die. Rich men would have a hard time entering the kingdom, because their possessions become more important than doing what it takes to show love to others. It is a narrow and limited path that only a few will enter because too many choose their own sense of right, wrong and judgment of others over loving unconditionally.

Entering the kingdom of God is as simple and difficult as choosing to love others unconditionally, regardless of who they are, where they come from, and what they’ve done. The only way to do that is to believe and trust that is the way God loves us. There is nothing separating us from God’s love, for His love is unconditional. Our beliefs and perceptions that we are separated are lies that we tell ourselves and have heard from others. The thing that prevents us from experiencing that love is that we falsely think that the love is tainted or doesn’t exist.

One of the photo platitudes that is so popular on Facebook came through my newstream today.

Don’t allow your wounds to turn you into a person you are not.

I realized that I have been actively working to turn this around and that I am working to regain the me I was meant to be after allowing my wounds to turn me into a person I don’t like.

If God loves me, then I should love me. If I can love me, then I can love you. I can love you because God loves me. This is the kingdom of God. Will you enter it with me?