What the kingdom of God means is made clear in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Lord’s Prayer, and in the words, “Enter by the narrow gate!” This means, treat people as you wish them to treat you. This is generally overlooked. You will not be going the way of discipleship until you do for everybody all that you ask from God for yourself, that is, absolute social justice and the peaceable atmosphere of God’s kingdom. We are envoys of the coming kingdom of God; we serve only one law, the law of his Spirit. The Sermon on the Mount tells us what that means in practice. To anyone who is sincere about it, the way is plain. Of course, no one can go this way without grace. Jesus indicates this when he speaks of the tree and its vitality in connection with the kingdom of God. He also speaks of the salt, meaning the entirely new nature bestowed on us in Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Unless your justice is better than that of the moralists and theologians, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And he also says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice.”
To be ready for God’s kingdom does not mean to stop eating and drinking or to reject marriage; it means recognizing the signs of the times and living now as we shall live in the future kingdom of God. But what will be the sign that God’s kingdom is about to come? We read the answer in Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27: “And he will send his messengers with a trumpet sounding afar, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” That is the sign of the second coming of Christ. The gathering together is the sign of Christ – “How much did I desire to gather you as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings” (Matt. 23:37).
Jesus says that your words must be your deeds, your faith for the future must be your present living. The salvation of Jesus Christ must be your life. In this way you will find the right attitude to all people and all things. You will not judge, but you will sense that people’s lives are ruined by social injustice; you will feel that all guilt represents humanity’s moral decline. So you will take care not to expose the holiest things to eyes and ears that do not understand. You will try to see that others have everything that you want for yourself. Do you need a house or a bank account? Then make that possible for all. Whatever you expect others to do for you, do the same for them. Love your neighbor as yourself – that is truth and reality; it is the reality of Jesus. And right afterwards he tells us to go in by the narrow gate, to go the narrow way. Beware of the way of compromise, the way of the many, the broad way.
Beware of false prophets. They speak of peace and work for peace, but they are not free from the power of money, from mammon, lying, and impurity. Anyone who is not completely free of mammon should not speak of peace; otherwise he is a false prophet. Mammon is the murderer from the beginning. Whoever has not broken with mammon should not speak of peace, since he is a participant in the unceasing war that destroys the dispossessed by the power of wealth and its possessors.
Jesus concludes with the challenge: It is no use to hear these words unless you also do them. The finest peace palace will collapse unless it fully represents the will of Jesus. The call of Jesus goes to the core, to the very heart: Leave everything and go my way. “Sell all that you have and give to the poor. Go with me!” (Matt. 19:21; Luke 5:27)
The crucial question is this: Do you believe in Christ? Do you love Christ? It is no good to lament about our sins. What matters most is to believe in Christ and to love Christ. When we see the whole unhappy world going to pieces, when we realize how crazy it must sound to talk about faith and humanity and about being humane, then there can be no doubt: Christ alone remains the true Man, he who called himself the Son of Man, the Child of Man.
There is nothing else for me to hold on to for my life or death, nothing else to believe in for my neighbors, for those who are close to my heart, nothing else to trust in for our Bruderhof, nothing else to hold on to for a world going to pieces. I have to confess: I have absolutely nothing but Christ alone! (Phil. 3:8)
As published in God’s Revolution (Farmington, PA: Plough, 1997).
Article edited for length and clarity.