Quakers have often talked about the “Kingdom of God” but what do we mean by it? We asked 7 Friends about their perspectives.
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- What’s your idea of the Kingdom of God?
- Do you find either the words “kingdom” or “God” to be troublesome? Why or why not?
Kody Hersh: One of the cool paradoxes of Quaker spirituality that is really important to me is this idea that Christ (in my language and understanding) is here and is coming, that the Kingdom of God—this transformation to a world of justice and peace—is here, and it’s coming.
Quakers and the Kingdom of God
Mark Wutka: So the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven—in fact, I’ve seen other people call it the kingdom of love, the covenant of love, sometimes getting away from the “kingdom” idea—is not talking about where you go after you die, it was the idea of God setting the world right. That God created the world good, things went bad, God would make everything good again. Jesus was proclaiming, “That starts now.” That’s what the messiah’s job was, to say, “Hey, the time has started. God’s putting the world back together.” The sermon on the mount was sort of the blueprint for how the Kingdom of God works.
What is the Kingdom of God?
Micah Bales: The word “kingdom” in the greek is not a place. It’s not a place where a castle is and there’s land around it. A kingdom is a domain or a realm or the place where a monarch rules. So, the Kingdom of God is the reality in which we live in the ways in which God is calling us to live, and we live in the peace, beauty, and justice that God created the world to reflect.
Vanessa Julye: Well, for me, it’s a community where everyone has value and that we are actually able to see that of God in each person, and to be able to live in community sharing the gifts that God has given us with each other.
Walter Hjelt Sullivan: The Kingdom of God is… it is already and it is constantly becoming. So, it’s not that there’s some nirvana in the future that we’re going to move into, it’s that we have the moment and the opportunity to remember, to bring back into our body—this body, the community body, the larger body which we call mother earth. So, Friends believe that that is constantly breaking again fresh and anew into the world.
Su Penn: The idea that something could exist that was entirely in good order and that encompassed us all and that was just and loving and of course peaceful, and the idea that somehow this could be brought into being—and even more radically, the idea that it already exists and we just can’t see it—I think, is a powerful one. Sometimes there’s this rational part of my head that says, “Well that’s just a metaphor, right?” and then there’s this mystical, very God-connected part of me that says, “This is the Kingdom of God. I am in the Kingdom of God right now” and I believe it, all the way through me down to my very bones.
How Friends Manifest the Kingdom of God
Christopher Sammond: Martin Luther King talked about the arch of the universe being long but bending towards justice. Well, I think that’s his way of saying something similar to what I’m experiencing, which is that it is the ultimate reality. We can access it through worship and through mystical practice. It’s almost like it’s underneath the current reality. Another analogy would be tuning a radio dial to the right frequency. You don’t know that the music is right there until you tune to it, and there it is.
Kody Hersh: It’s important to recognize that the reality of what’s around us is often more than what it seems to be, and that there’s change that’s still possible and is still arriving—is still in the process of being birthed—and that we can participate in that. So I think when what I experience as the place that we arrive at in a gathered meeting for worship is a kind of lifting of the cloud cover that keeps us from seeing the ways that the kingdom of God is here.
Mark Wutka: Perhaps it’s still like the mustard seed that hasn’t really grown into the great plant that it eventually would, but I feel like the best I can do is to follow the Spirit and do what I’m being guided to. And that is a small way of helping to manifest the Kingdom, and that’s really what we’re called to do.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.