my grandmother, my mother, me (little guy on right), and my siblings.
Part 2 of 7 in an ongoing series to attempt to answer the question “What does the Kingdom of God look like (in real life)?”:
The Kingdom of God is eternal. And that eternity has already begun. Because God’s Kingdom is eternal, and so conceivably also outside of our conception of time, it can be simultaneously now and not yet. we know the Kingdom of God is not FULLY here yet (just the news from the past weekend would demonstrate that) but we also know that it is breaking through now in our midst.
If we’re only focused on how it is not here yet fully then we may miss signs of how it actually is already being revealed here now.
That’s some nice philosophizing Dave, but how do you know the Kingdom of God is actually eternal? How do you know with certainty it will last, especially in the face of such evil we see these days?
Well, I don’t know with 100% certainty (what do we actually?), but I think it’s reasonable for me to believe the Kingdom of God is eternal and cannot be destroyed…from my background and story as a Japanese-American living in the 21st century.
If you know a little about the Japanese, you know they can be pretty intense, to put it mildly.
Over 400 years ago when organized Christianity first arrived on the shores of Japan, it was received with some curiosity. But that didn’t last for long. Under the Shogunate system (military dictatorship) of Japan, some of the most brutal repression and persecution of christians ever recorded in history took place. One of the most feared forms of punishment for not renouncing faith in Jesus was to be crucified upside down into a pit of sewage and be cut behind the ears so that one would die slowly. The persecution was so intense that in about 30 years it ceased to exist publicly.
Yet the Kingdom of God persisted in the form of hidden Christians (“kakure” Christians). the Shogunate government however did not. It was replaced by a government with an emperor in the Meiji era which was then replaced by the Taisho era with a new emperor. As the country opened up from its isolationist policies, a new wave of Christian missionaries re-entered Japan.
Japan, under the guise of the emperor, began to imitate the colonizing west and started amassing power beyond a national scale. One country they occupied in the early 20th century was Korea, systematically attempting to wipe out their language, their culture, and their dignity by even forcing their women to become “comfort women” (aka sex slaves) for the Japanese troops. Some Japanese Christians refused to submit to the radical nationalism that was sweeping Japan. They were persecuted and imprisoned as a result.
Yet, the Kingdom of God persisted in the form of a strong Korean church born out of oppression, which is now, arguably, one of the countries that sends the most missionaries abroad per capita. The Kingdom of God persisted in the form of Japanese believers that became a “confessing church” to resist nationalism like the Japanese Holiness Movement of Churches, which happens to be the church that my father, me, and my siblings came to faith in. The Kingdom of God persisted over hate in the form of my marriage of reconciliation to an awesome Korean-American believer. The Empire of Japan, however, did not last. Since 1947 Japan has renounced the right to initiate any acts of war.
On the other hand, in the U.S. after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the empire of Japan an executive order was issued in 1942 by the acting American president that ordered the internment of anyone with Japanese ancestry living in the states, to live in camps of row houses in the deserted wastelands of the west. The majority of these Japanese were American citizens, some even fighting for the U.S. that had interned their families. There was no due process, no innocent till proven guilty. In fact, no person of Japanese ancestry living in the U.S. was ever convicted of treason. Homes, properties, businesses, churches, communities had to be abandoned with no rights of return. Even after being fully segregated and released 4 years later with the end of the war, Japanese-American Christians had to suffer the indignity of not being allowed to have their churches back but told to go to white churches, these same churches that stood by and watched their own siblings in Christ be bused away.
Yet the Kingdom of God persisted, as I grew up in a Japanese-American church. I went to church alongside those who had been interned. The Kingdom of God persisted in these Japanese-Americans who had been unjustly imprisoned. They did not lose faith. They loved me and taught me to keep on loving Jesus and to forgive those who had wronged them. They set me on a path to a better way. The internment camps did not last. The American government eventually apologized and made some reparation. I pray such injustices never again happen in the United States to ANYONE and am so proud of my Japanese-American people who continue to fight for the rights of the immigrants on the margins.
After the war, in Japan, my grandmother was invited to an event by a local neighbor. My grandmother became a Christian. My grandfather was furious. He found her bible and tore it up.
Yet, the kingdom of God of persisted in my grandmother. She did not lose her faith but passed it on to her daughter, my mother. My mother, was struck by her mother’s unwavering convictions and faithfulness in the face of persecution by my grandfather. So when my mother was invited to a Christian event in college, in the midst of protests in the 60’s, she accepted Christ. She came to the U.S. and met my father in church. They passed on the secret of the Kingdom to me. Who knows how much I am sustained to this very moment by the faithful prayers of my mother? I hope to pass on the Kingdom of God to my two sons, who now represent the 4th generation of faith in my family, even in the midst of uncertain times and circumstances. My grandfather’s persecution did not last.
The Kingdom of God, however, has lasted. It has stood the test of humanity’s savage empires, repressions, violence, crucifixions, occupations, colonizations, sexual assaults, attempted genocides, imprisonments, prejudices, internments, and persecutions…and it will continue to.
The Kingdom of God is indestructible.
If you are of the Kingdom of God, you will persist.