And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be in the kingdom of God; what it means when I pray, “Thy kingdom come.” I’ve been using the phrase, “rule and reign” of God lately in an attempt more accurately to convey the meaning of the term kingdom. But that’s only part of the story. What does it mean to be in God’s rule and reign?
I love Martin Luther’s explanation of the Lord’s Prayer when he says,
“The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.
How is this done?–Answer.
“When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.”
So what does it mean to be “not far” from the kingdom of God? Certainly part of it is knowing what is most important to God: That we love him first and most, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. To be “not far” from the kingdom of God is a move from knowledge to faith. It has to do with faith in Jesus that expresses itself in love for others. To be “not far” is a matter of being invited to invest oneself in Jesus’ promises, and give oneself to acts of kindness and love.
Being “not far” from the rule and reign of God is certainly better than being far from God. But it is not enough to be “not far” from God. He desires that we be close, and under his gracious rule. He desires that we embrace Jesus’ call to “repent and believe the Good News.” He desires that we take our knowledge about God and let it work itself out in love and good works.
Jesus has purchased and won us by his holy and precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death. We are now his: Forgiven. Redeemed. Saved. Set apart. Jesus is inviting me to live under him in his kingdom and serve him eternally. That sounds like a very up close relationship, better by far than “not far.”