The Bible has much to say about the kingdom of God. But where exactly is it? Pope Benedict, in the third chapter of his book relates how this has been debated through the ages. Protestant theologians have said that the kingdom radically comes to the individual. Catholic theologians have said the kingdom is seen today in the Church. Secular society tries to build a universal kingdom but without God. People can have their “beliefs” but ultimately they do not matter because people are all there is in the end (so the logic goes).
Benedict says that the kingdom is within Jesus alone and it is through him alone that we get a glimpse of the coming kingdom.
I agree but where I would press us all is to define who Jesus is. For some, Jesus seems to be the social critic. For others, a personal comforter. For others still Jesus is the one who waits for us to arrive so he can bring us to heaven. I even found an article this week that articulated that Jesus was really a conservative who believed in free market principles (and I have read another years ago who argued Jesus was a Marxist). In other words, don’t we often simply make Jesus into the the Savior we want him to be?
If Benedict is right and Jesus IS the kingdom – then it is incumbent upon us all not to project a Jesus we want but rather to find the Jesus that is. This can be scary and challenging because we might have to let come of some long held assumptions and embrace new ones. We might think we know Jesus well after all these years but maybe just maybe, there is more to learn. Wherever we worship and whenever we pick up the Bible, let’s try to put our presuppositions aside and hear him anew when we read that red print in our Bibles.
As for Tom the Presbyterian reading Benedict the Pope – I am throughly impressed with his writing. This gentleman is well read and a great theologian. And so far (going into chapter 4) I have bumped into nothing that couldn’t be taught from any Protestant pulpit or class. Perhaps his goal is to speak beyond Roman Catholicism to the larger world.
I’m enjoying it and will keep reporting each week.
All the best,