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Surprisingly Close to Heaven

Kingdom-of-God

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  Mark 12:34

The response above is the end of a dialog that Jesus has with one of the Jewish leaders, a scribe who has asked Jesus a question. The conversation has centered on the Great Commandment. This famous pairing of two Old Testament directives lies at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. In short: we are to love God with everything we’ve got. And we are to love others as we love ourselves. Jesus let’s us know that this is what lies at the heart of life when we live like God hopes (and promises) that we will.

Jesus’ response reminds us that getting this is transformational. In the process, we are “not far from the kingdom of God.”

Life in God’s kingdom is neither life in this world nor otherworldly. It is this luminous place where earth and heaven somehow touch. Things in the world don’t work as if the world is in charge but rather act in sync with God’s desires. So, it isn’t exactly “here” but it definitely isn’t “there.” The kingdom comes so close as to be in the midst of the world in which we live.

In the Celtic tradition, such places are called “thin places.” They are tied to geography – some places seem to be places where people repeatedly experience the wall between heaven as earth as being very thin.

But Jesus isn’t talking about a thin place. This isn’t geography. Jesus is talking about living a “thin life.” In other words, when we see that love stands at the heart of life and then love God and others out of that insight and commitment, our very lives become thin places. Heaven breaks in quickly and without much notice. A hungry person finds a meal, two friends who have become estranged make up, tough decisions are made and turn out well, addicts find hope and freedom from the things that hold them captive. It is love that stands at the center of the kingdom of God and it is love that stands at the center of the Christian life. When that happens, heaven and life become intertwined in life giving and surprising ways.

Be loved by Jesus. Share love with others. Do so and you too will discover that “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”

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