Here, in our midst. And here, out there. Until the ends of the earth. Up to the ever receding horizon and beyond. Until the moon and back again. It is here and now, real and unreal. It is every person, loved or hated. In every flower that blooms, but also in wilting. It is in war. In violence. In horrors. But also in gentle hands that nurse, in tears that flow, in comforters which are made with love to be given away. The kingdom of God is all-encompassing. It is everywhere and nowhere. Now and never. It is bigger than any of us can hold and it is as small as a first breath. And all that at the same time. And more. It cannot be captured in human words. Rightly so. It is from God.
The world itself is His kingdom. Ever since the very beginning of creation. And we are part of it, our whole life. Thank God.
And yet we put ourselves outside. Whether we have it or not. Because every time we say 'in the world but not in the world' we do or do not have the whole world of God. Whether there is a kind of cosmic battle going on where God does not get the world on its knees. Where we are a kind of advanced posts, pawns on the divine chessboard. Infiltrating in the ranks of the enemy. A dangerous task, because everyone knows the stories of spies that overflow, who cloaks with the enemy, who become doubles spies. So it is important to meet regularly (on a Sunday morning, for example) and to observe ourselves: "in the world, yes, but not in the world." As if the whole world is not God's. As if we are constantly in danger of being corrupted.
It is an enemy thinking that is deeply rooted in Christianity. Already in the gospels Jesus constantly warns his disciples that following him will lead to contempt and persecution. And here, in John 17, he himself prays: "The world hates them because they do not belong to the world as I do not belong to the world." The world hates them. And through the ages, to this day, Christians have experienced that directly and personally. Torture. Persecutions. Diaspora. The world hates us. And things go wrong with the story that we do not want to keep to ourselves.
If you learn that the world hates you, that you live in it but are not really part of it, then that does something to you. It does something about how you see the world: hostile, dangerous, seductive, out to get you down, treacherous, not to be trusted, something to get out of the way, to close for. And it does something about how you see yourself. If the world around you is hostile, you will live as if you were to defend yourself. As if you constantly have to be on your guard. You seek support from peers and you close the ranks. And before you know it, you have become entrenched behind your own and there is no real contact with the world around you anymore. In the world, yes. But not from the world. Never!
'In the world but not of the world' can lead to a hostile arrogance with which we take the world, and also each other the measure. The world outside and / or the worldly within ours. For what is the story that we tell with "in the world but not of the world?" Consciously or unconsciously, it says that the world is not right. And we do. We are better. But who determines what 'of the world' is and what is not? When are we safe? Against whom do we defend ourselves? Who should we be on our guard against? Are we safe within our own walls? What is the probability that the world will in turn infiltrate our ranks? Where is the boundary between our world and the other?
Before you know it you fall prey to exactly the way of thinking that characterizes the world: that you are everything that is different from you, that you hate it. And preferably continue and exclude and judge about it. Even within the walls of your own little sect, worlds are created in worlds in worlds. Who hate each other. That too shows our history. Sadly enough. Up to the present day. We always bring in that hostile world ourselves. Precisely by stating that we are not of this world.
Perhaps that is what Jesus means by evil when he prays in John 17:15: "I ask you not to take them away from the world, but whether you want to protect them from evil." Whether God wants to protect his people against the thinking of the enemy, against thinking in good and bad and we and them. After all, this is the man who taught us: "love your enemies." If the world hates us, we must embrace it. Just then.
Enemy thinking leads to fear and aversion and hatred. To reject. Judge and condemn. To pull you back behind your own right. To stiffness. Until we / she think. To arrogance. Unavoidable. And with that, I believe, we oppose the gospel.
Not away from the world. Right in the middle of that world, and then deep and full of that world. Because that world, dear brothers and sisters, is not something to be afraid of. That world is from God himself. His kingdom. Here and now. What else? And in that world God protects us from evil. At least, if we dare to trust that Jesus' praying has some strength. And that evil is not the world itself. That evil is not the devil as a great cosmic opponent outside of us and against us in an ever-ongoing war. That evil is our own tendency to seek security in isolation, in us / they think, in good and evil. That evil is our own tendency to entrench us behind the impeccable arrogance of polarity. That we could be in the world but not of the world ... as if we would learn this world a lesson.
Enemy thinking is doing something with you. If you see the world as if it is hostile, it does something about how you see the world and how you see yourself. But that's the same with thinking from the story of love and liberation. If you see the world around you as the kingdom of God, here and now, fully, deeply, truly and unreal at the same time ... then that does something to you. With how you see that world. How you see the people. How you see yourself.
Then every man is a man of God. Not better or worse, but fellow human beings. Even those who think differently than we do, look different, have different interests, love differently, have different habits, think differently about right and wrong, or about sex or how to raise your children. Also those who worship in our eyes another god, or who do not want to know God or command. Every threat becomes a challenge to trust. Every hostility a recognition. In love. Every flower has a constantly changing eternity of budding, flowering, wilting, sowing. Every breath part of that one indivisible kingdom of God.
Not 'in the world but not of the world'. But just embrace the world as a gift. Look around and keep an eye on everything for the kingdom that is all in all. Whether others see it or not. That is the story that you do not want to keep to yourself, that you want to live to the full: That there is no separation, unless we build that wall. That the world is one and is of God, unless we break it. That is the sound that makes you hear. Every day. In our world. That there is liberation, and life. And love. The kingdom of God. Here and now and everywhere. That is the basic attitude with which you then approach life. No longer afraid, but confident. Not from the world, but inextricably part of it. Because if we can not or do not dare to raise that trust ... how should the world know that it is the kingdom of God? How on earth?