Scripture depicts the Reign of God as the crux of Jesus’ life. It’s an already-but-not-yet reality. In Jesus, the first Christians saw God loving them and promising to fulfill every human potential. Still disease oppressed them as well as plagues and starvation, poverty and violence. Their lives regularly lacked the feel of God’s love. Clearly, all was not yet right.
This experience of already-but-not-yet has an effect on Christian life. We live in the tension between peace and urgency. It plays itself out in every area of faith.
We constantly hear about the gift of peace: Peace on Earth, Peace be with you, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Yet we know a world full of suffering and unrealized human hopes. We see this; we feel this constantly. We pray every day that everyone, ourselves included, will live more justly.
It’s common belief that faith will provide a deep calm sense of calm, even tranquility. Some folks go so far as to say that worldly problems shouldn’t trouble those with deep Christian convictions.
Jesus’ central teaching, however, was that God will fulfill his gift to humanity in the new world when he overcomes injustice, ends poverty and brings power to the powerless. He will accomplish this new world through the lives of those guided and empowered by the very same Spirit that enlivened Jesus. The Spirit will accomplish God’s Reign through us. Though this is human destiny, it’s a destiny not yet fulfilled. Now people suffer; many unimaginably.
There’s no way that Christians can live content until God’s world is a reality and human suffering is ended. The happiness, the survival of real lives depends on the efforts of people who are guided by Jesus’ Spirit. Christians simply can’t live tranquilly while others suffer from the absence of God’s Reign.
This is the inescapable tension of Christian life: we know the peace of God’s love and promise but we can’t escape the urgent ache of the world’s suffering millions. For now, that’s the irresolvable reality.