The entire ministry of Jesus was to challenge his followers to establish the kingdom of God here on earth. Monarchy was the main form of government in his day – his interest was in the rule rather than in the splendid costumes – it was a rule of justice and peace. Is it possible that human society could work out of love rather than out of obligation?
As the early community grew, things quickly became more focused on the kingdom part than on the God bit. When called to task, the historical response was always to muddle the notion of the kingdom of God with the promise of eternal life. Generations of Christians (gladly) suffered injustice by submitting to God’s holy will as their pastors advised. A whole spirituality of suffering and joining that suffering to the sufferings of Christ developed. The command of Christ to build a kingdom of justice and peace here on Earth went mute and has only been a whisper since.
It is easier to live with rules, and we have new ones every day. The blatant unfairness of some rules has been highlighted many times in recent years. Justice needs to be fair or else it is not justice. In these situations peace is maintained by threat and bribe. But thoughts of reform elicit fear; there are no brakes and everything will unravel if we try and change it. In former days people expressed this sentiment as the sky falling on their heads. The implosion of all earth’s empires and the tales of the demise of great civilisations give us every reason to believe that the world as we know it can easily turn upside-down. It happened to every great empire to date and is possibly happening to ours now.
History tells us that as societies grew less equal they slid suddenly into the abyss of their own making. Every generation could see the growing inequalities of its society. They all knew that there was a revolution coming but they also believed that it would never be in their lifetime. Some generations got that part wrong!
As we burst into the rousing triumphant anthem of Hail Redeemer King Divine, we will need every stone in the walls of conscience to barricade us from the fact that his kingdom is nowhere near to being present. Still, the best time to consider virtue is when it has failed. Now is the time to add the values of temperance and prudence to domestic and national management. These were not practised in the good times. Maybe academic theorists could be encouraged to study their effects more closely. A sense of belonging to a community encourages a deviant far more effectively than a conviction does. A sense of believing in yourself increases creativity and health.
A sense of fairness elicits a love and dedication that enriches everybody. Efficiency and profit are not the only human values. They certainly deliver economic growth but their lasting effects produce injustices. Contended citizens deliver peace but nobody is ever content when there is unfairness. True justice is a prerequisite for lasting peace.
Justice, temperance, fortitude and prudence are the hallmarks of the kingdom of God. Many Christians have stamped them on their hearts and minds, but these values are underrepresented in public debate. Yet these are the same values that were very much tested and had to be applied (often painfully) when brave people pulled Northern Ireland back from the brink. It was frightening and difficult, but the sky didn’t fall on their heads . . . their bravery and success show that Jesus was far from naive when he taught us our first request from God – thy kingdom come!
History tells us that
as societies grew less equal they slid suddenly into the abyss of their