Mcknight continues his challenge to the reader to consider the meaning of life – in this chapter he gets into ‘Jesus the Dream Awakener’ – how Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is essentially ‘God’s dream for this world come true.’
But this wasn’t just Jesus’ notion – it was the longing of Israel. When Jesus used the word kingdom and attached it to ‘now’ and ‘arrived’, it was dramatic stuff. But what had arrived? Many Christians are unsure how to answer this question.
[I agree with Scot here – most Christians are aware that Jesus taught about the kingdom of God, but most don’t appreciate how central it is to all he said and did, and the term remains fuzzy and ill-defined.]
Partly this is because popular evangelicalism reduces Jesus’ message down to an inner ‘personal relationship with Jesus’. Curiously many evangelicals have bought into the old liberal theology (I guess he’s thinking of Schleiermacher et al) that kingdom is an inner spiritual experience.
Three things attach to the Jewish sense of the word kingdom:
King – who would rule. Specifically the Messiah. And a Jewish king means the end of unjust rule by corrupted and compromised Herodians like Herod Antipas and his masters, the Romans.
Land – the Messiah will rule a kingdom from Jerusalem and life will be renewed under Torah.
Citizen – each member of the kingdom will love and serve the king, God’s anointed one and this renewed community becomes a blessing to the nations.
These are concrete realities says Scot- and as the NT unfolds he argues that this renewed community of Israel becomes the church as ‘the partial and imperfect manifestation of the kingdom of God.’ [Big jump here from Israel to church – I’d have liked a bit more of a tour of how one leads to the other, especially given the level of disagreement among Christians on this].
So kingdom is all about ‘God’s society on earth’. It is all about ‘may your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. And the church is to embody this kingdom here and now. [This is a very McKnight concern – to connect kingdom and community].
He gives the African illustration of Ubuntu – that identity is found in relatedness and community. An African saying is that ‘A person is a person through other persons’. And this, argues Scot is what kingdom is about. We are not lone individuals, but members of Jesus’ kingdom community. This is far more than ‘a personal relationship with Jesus’
Kingdom life is concerned with justice, love, forgiveness, hope, relationship with God and others.
“Christianity that is only about me and for me and concerns me – and in which I spend my time assessing how I am growing in my personal relationship with God – lacks the central society focus of Jesus. That form of Christianity is not kingdom.”
Strong words. So to muse on this a bit more – what are some implications if some forms of ‘me-centred’ evangelicalism become theologically detached from Jesus’ call to ‘kingdom of God life’?