John Goldingay has some very interesting things to say in his book, Do We Need the New Testament? In several places he repeats the notion that neither Israel nor the church were called to advance or bring in or implement the kingdom of God.
There is no direct link between seeking to restrain injustice in society and the implementing of God’s reign. Implementing God’s reign is fortunately God’s business. We have noted that the New Testament does not talk about human beings furthering or spreading or building up or working for God’s reign (p. 47).
An uncomfortable truth about the Holy Spirit is that we cannot control its coming and operation, as we cannot bring in or further or work for God’s reign. . . Our relationship with God is not contractual, so that we could fulfill the right conditions and it would have the desired results, as if our relationship with God resembled putting coins in a vending machine (p. 60).
Unfortunately, Goldingay doesn’t elaborate much on this notion, for it surely runs against the grain of much Christian rhetoric about advancing the kingdom or working for a kingdom agenda.
In our Gospel of Mark course from a weeks ago, we lingered over Jesus’ words about receiving the kingdom.
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (10:15-16).
We were struck since most of us are used to language of advancing or furthering or even entering. But Jesus speaks of receiving it.
What sort of language do you most associate with the kingdom of God – receiving or advancing? And what is intended by each of these? What do we typically mean by advancing it, and what might Jesus mean by receiving it?