Mark van Steenwyk on the un-Kingdom of Jesus from The Holy Anarchist:
Christ’s kingship is inconsistent with traditional structures of power; and for this reason, Jesus tells Pilate that “My kingdom is not from this world” (Jn 18:36). Passages like these have, unfortunately, fostered an ineffectual other-worldliness among Christians. And they have been used to legitimate “real-world” kingdoms. Jesus rules some magical sky-kingdom, while princes and emperors can dominate flesh and land.
But Jesus’ reign isn’t other-worldly. It isn’t apolitical. It’s just political in a radically different way…
So, when Jesus said his kingdom wasn’t of this world, he wasn’t understood by Pilate or by the Jews or by his earliest followers as talking about the afterlife or some abstracted spiritual truth. Based upon the lethal response to Jesus (and the early reactions to Jesus’ movement), the “Kingdom of God” was understood as a challenge to Caesar and his reign. Their two kingdoms clashed…
The social, economic, political, and religious subversions of such an un-reign are almost endless – peace-making instead of war mongering, liberation not exploitation, sacrifice rather than subjugation, mercy not vengeance, care for the vulnerable instead of privileges, generosity instead of greed, embrace rather than exclusion.
So, what DOES this unKingdom look like if it’s not domination, not of war or exploitation, subjugation or vengeance, neither privilege, greed nor exclusion?
Maybe it looks like a place where values are changed and transforming. Where we love others as we love ourselves because we love God.* Where the prisoners and the poor and the outcasts and the marginalized are prioritized – where the peacekeepers and the meek are elevated, where the hungry and thirsty are fed, where the prisoners are set free, where strangling financial debts are forgiven, and love is the law of the land.
Maybe it looks like Jesus’ sermons and illustrations. And maybe the opposite of that is worldly.
*Rather than the current manifestation of American Churchianity where we often say we love God and use “love” as a semantic weapon against others, telling them that, while we “love” them, they must conform to our dominating standards of what it means to be right or human or good. Which is not love at all, only greed and selfishness.