Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40
After He had prayed all night, Jesus called twelve men to follow Him--ordinary men who were fishermen, small businessmen, and government employees. None were university graduates or professionals as we think of them today. They were men with calluses on their hands, with the smell of labor on their clothes, with dust on their sandals.
Then as the crowd pressed upon them, Jesus had them sit down and He taught them. He spoke of an invisible kingdom which God Himself presided over, "The Kingdom of God" as Jesus described it.
As the crowd listened, they weighed his words against the world they knew--one ruled by the Romans assisted by the Jews whom they considered to be traitors—such as Herod and, the lackeys who cast their lots with the corrupt officials who had been bought for a price.
When Jesus talked of a kingdom, this was good news! They, of course, envisioned a literal kingdom established by a son of David, ruled by Jews with no Roman influence.
But Jesus soon made it clear that His kingdom was one in the hearts of God's children--one ruled by a different set of rules than the Romans knew, one where citizens treated enemies as friends, where you prayed for those who persecuted you, and where you gave your coat to a brother. Not everyone, of course, then or now, would be comfortable in such a kingdom.
First, God's kingdom is one of joy. Then, as characteristic #2--it is a kingdom of peace. Five times the New Testament describes God as "The God of peace." Twice, writing to Roman Christians, Paul calls Him "the God of peace" and then adds who "will soon crush Satan under your feet."
From the beginning of history, peace--both world peace and individual personal peace--have been difficult to obtain. From Cain's dispute with brother Abel to the most recent divorce case heard in the courthouse nearest you, living at peace with your neighbors, your family, even yourself is difficult. Listen to the echoes of the failed peace summits where all go home empty-handed. Peace is hard to come by.
Jesus, however, was telling those who came to hear Him that in this world--one torn by hatred, by strife, and by bitter rivalry--you can have an inner peace dwelling in your heart, that you don't have to render an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
How else is this invisible kingdom different? It's not only a kingdom of joy and peace, but it is also a kingdom of harmony and order. This can perhaps best be observed by noticing how much disharmony and disorder there is in our world. Art, music, even literature seem to be intent on breaking all the rules, producing a cacophony of noise, a blur of artistic harmony, a rewriting of the books in such a way that many people say, "That's art?" Or, "That's music?" Or, "That's great literature?"
I'm reminded of the painting in an art gallery said to have been done by an artist's four-year-old son who dropped paint on the tire of his upended bicycle so that as the wheel was turned, the paint would be flung on a canvass. I'm glad that Rembrandt didn't know such things were art, but--alas--that not the point.
In the lives of those who are citizens of the kingdom there comes a peace, a harmony, and an order in a world which largely negates all of this. Simply put, when you let God put the broken, disordered pieces of your life back together, a pattern of harmony emerges, a song of joyfulness, and the appearance of cheerfulness. That's what living in God's kingdom is about.
Resource reading: Romans 15.