One of the most important aspects of embodying, demonstrating and announcing God’s kingdom in our lives is understanding God’s kingdom within creation. There is an unbiblical dualism that resides in the minds of many Christians — i.e, spiritual vs. material, sacred vs. secular, supernatural vs. natural. This false dichotomy hinders our representation and participation in God’s full kingdom, relegating it to the spiritual, sacred, supernatural category and making it almost irrelevant to real life. This also makes the physical creation, where we spend all of our time both here and in God’s future, seem unimportant. Ultimately, we end up with unbiblical views of God’s future as depicted in the Left Behind series.
God is not throwing away or destroying his creation in a ball of fire. He’s renewing heaven and earth. Immediately following Paul’s discussion about Christians being the children and co-heirs of God, he states in Romans 8:19, 21, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed… creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
All of this is to say that God’s kingdom encompasses all of life. I heard N.T. Wright state that there isn’t a place in the cosmos or a split second in time that hasn’t already been claimed by the Lordship of Jesus. Therefore, our dualistic worldview is unbiblical and prevents us from adequately embodying God’s kingdom in our lives. We need to reconstruct a more appropriate and biblical worldview.
Eastern Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann, has written a great book called For the Life of the World that addresses this issue. I’m going to end with some quotes from his book:
“But the Bible, we have seen, also begins with man as a hungry being, with the man who is that which he eats. The perspective, however, is wholly different, for nowhere in the Bible do we find the dichotomies which for us are the self-evident framework of all approaches to religion. In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God. The world as man’s food is not something ‘material’ and limited to material functions, thus different from, and opposed to, the specifically ‘spiritual’ functions by which man is related to God. All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God. It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for Him. To be sure, man is not the only hungry being. All that exists lives by ‘eating.’ The whole creation depends on food. But the unique position of man in the universe is that he alone is to bless God for the food and the life he receives from Him. He alone is to respond to God’s blessing with his blessing.”
“The world is a fallen world because it has fallen away from the awareness that God is all in all.”
“In our perspective, however, the ‘original’ sin is not primarily that man has ‘disobeyed’ God; the sin is that he ceased to be hungry for Him and for Him alone, ceased to see his whole life depending on the whole world as a sacrament of communion with God. The sin was not that man neglected his religious duties. The sin was that he thought of God in terms of religion, i.e., opposing him to life. The only real fall of man is his non-eucharistic life in a non-eucharistic world. The fall is not that he preferred world to God, distorted the balance between the spiritual and material, but that he made the world material, whereas he was to have transformed it into ‘life in God,’ filled with meaning and spirit.”
“In Christ, life — life in all its totality — was returned to man, given again as a sacrament and communion, made Eucharist.”
When our vision for God’s kingdom expands to include all of creation, then a door opens for the apprentices and ambassadors of Christ to bring his kingdom into the totality of life and creation. As Paul states in Colossians 1:18-19, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”