Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on Christ's Kingdom in this World

Arabic original here.

The Foxes of the Kingdom...

Those who wish that Christians would resign from occupying themselves with the affairs of the nation and of people go to the Gospel to search for verses to support their preconception. One of their favorite verses, besides "Give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21), Christ's saying "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

It is noteworthy that most of those who cite these two verses do not bother with their context or their profound implications, but rather content themselves with a superficial reading of them. They go on to infer immediately that Christ refuses to have any kingdom on earth and that He calls His followers to have no concern for the world but to be content instead with awaiting the world to come where Christ will rule forever. These two inferences are incorrect: Christ did not call His followers to have no concern for the affairs of the country and of human beings.

"My kingdom is not of this world" is an expression that does not negate the fact that that His kingdom is in this world. Because He confessed that He is a king, He has a kingdom that exists and is present wherever there are those who owe him allegiance. It is a kingdom without geographic, linguistic or racial borders. In it there is no religious, sectarian racial or ethnic discrimination. It's pillars are love, hope, faith, justice, peace and fairness. It is not true that Christ postponed the realization of His kingdom for an indefinite period. He came and from the beginning of his preaching the Good News He proclaimed that the kingdom of God has drawn near, that it is at  the door.

Jesus' followers must follow His example; otherwise they will not belong to His kingdom. He says of them, "the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). Christ did not say that they are not in the world or that from today they are living in heaven. He said that they do not behave according to the mindset of this world. He called them to rise up against the laws of this world that permit the strong to crush the weak and for the avaricious to eat the possessions of the widows and the poor. Thus "the world has hated them," rejected them, persecuted them. Christ did not ask them to refrain from supporting the oppressed, but rather sent them like sheep among wolves to speak the word of truth: "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Christ's basic concern is to transform the world and to make it fitting to what God desired when He created the first man and granted him authority over the earth. Thus it is an injustice to say that Christ fled from confronting and resisting an evil reality and that He separated life on this earth from eternal life. Everything begins "here and now", as Orthodox theology loves to express the irrelevance of time when talking about the kingdom. The kingdom is coming but at the very same time it is present.

Thus Christ called His followers to be concerned with the affairs of this world and of people, to defend values and virtues and to speak the truth openly. Christianity, contrary to what some may imagine, is a religion that is not only concerned with spiritual matters: it strives for a better world where peace, justice, love and mercy reign... This requires struggle against evil and sin.

Without struggle, any Christian conduct becomes a witness against Christ. He Himself, when He called Herod a "fox" (Luke 13:32), called on His pure ones to have no tolerance for foxes, no matter what mask they wear.

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