Monday, January 11, 2010

On Being and Becoming: The Kingdom of God as an Existential Posit Part VII

This then begs the question as to what the actual parameters of God’s Kingdom really are, for while the point has already been made that the boundaries of the Kingdom are not meant to be supposed earthly and political, it is still evident that to the first-century eyes, the idea of Kingdom had to deal with “the geographical aspect of basileia; for the status of a king is shown by the area over which he reigns. basileia assumes therefore the meaning kingdom, signifying the state or area over which a king reigns.”[1] Further, as already partly noted, one sees that the term “Basileia refers primarily to the act or process of ruling, a quality or privilege that distinguishes a king or other ruler. To have basileia is to possess control, power, freedom, and independence.”[2] So in seeking the answer to this query one might notice that it points to an existential paradigm – it leads again to that idea of being and becoming. One sees this as evident, in orientation to the parameters of Gods kingdom, when realizing that “Jesus believed that the Creator God had purposed, from the beginning, to deal with the problems within His creation through Israel; through Israel, the Creator God would heal the world.”[3] If the essential message of the covenantal paradigm introduces the idea of a sacred identity in affiliation with the holy, and if Christ’s position as headship of the Kingdom of God is an active one, then the place where God’s Kingdom urges its dwellers to work for progress comes through that reconciliation to wholeness both in the self and in the whole of creation so that they themselves embody those concentric realities, and given the denouncement of physical boundaries, the authority of the headship can be more widely professed to and realized by those psychically outside of the Kingdom. Consider John Perkins words when he says:

"To do the work of reconciliation, then, we must begin by being a reconciled fellowship, by being the Body of Christ, we must model the kind of relationships into which we want to invite others. Our love for each other gives credibility and power to our witness. We must begin by being."[4]

While Perkins is poignantly here talking in the area of racial reconciliation, the essential point for this discussion rings through. The idea of the wholeness as concerns the Kingdom is at once a reality which must be embodied and manifested but in turn must also be reached and struggled toward. It is a posit which urges the covenant believers of Christ to not only take up the reality of power and fullness in their identity as that covenant community as well as the truth of Christ’s active headship, but to also become and work toward that embodiment in reconciliation. This is tantamount in one teaching of N.T. Wright when he says:

"We have often seen Jesus’ challenge as a set of timeless ethics. We have read the Sermon on the Mount, people still read the Sermon on the Mount, as though it were simply a set of rules hanging in midair – it wasn’t. It began life as the challenge to Israel to be Israel."[5]

It is a challenge to covenant people to become in line with the fullness which is professed upon them by taking up that fullness in the present and then expounding it upon creation at the same time. It is a challenge to the covenant people to lay down the claims that mark earthly citizenship (security, greed, selfish ambition) and take up the self-sacrificing nature of the headship Himself to achieve reconciliation of the self to its fullness but to also promote that reconciliation of other selves to that fullness so that the reality becomes marked by the notion that “[f]rom the highest to the lowest, [one’s] self exists to be abdicated and, by that abdication, becomes the more truly self, to be thereupon yet the more abdicated[.]”[6] One progresses the Kingdom of God by diminishing the self and pushing for the progress of the other and reconciliation of the whole of creation to the restoration of an Eden-like harmony – as he stands in the world today and in the hope of its realization in the future and in eschaton. As Adam’s very existential reality was tied up in an identity which heralded God’s authority unto creation, so too does the Christian pronounce God’s rule by the very existential institution of being and becoming.

And finally, as one harkens back to that image of the wild dancing prairie flower, taking up its identity in the fullness of the present and in its participation in existent reality as well as contingent growth, it becomes evident that the Kingdom of God is not simply something that can be sidestepped as an eschatological paradigm, but it demands the renewal of the covenant person’s thinking to address the reconciliation of the world in the present. The Kingdom of God pushes for the covenant follower to take the stance that waves not a flag but the very self in allegiance to the King – Christ. To do this, as surveyed here, it is critical that such a follower would espouse a paradigm that at the same time takes in the full realization of the immanent identity bestowed upon her in the light of her relationship and orientation to the truth of her full-fledged acceptance into that paradigm.And now suddenly, that dancing prairie flower makes sense because it is a metaphor. The flower, caught up in the winds of its being, reveals itself and the Kingdom dweller in this essential tension. And it makes sense that what philosophers only gawk at with their existentialist jargon was something like the Christian message all along – that the covenant people are, and that is okay. The covenant people are, and God loves them. The covenant people are, and God continues to work in them. The covenant people are whole, because Christ, who is their being, is perfect. The covenant people are participants of this new creation, and they can walk with confidence in that manifestation of identity given them by the Almighty creator in His present Kingdom, and they are working for the full manifestation of the Kingdom as a future hope. They are free to once more walk quietly with their God as in the freshness of Eden, and drink coolly the river waters of a real spiritual life unbound by those ideological nooses associated with a life of simple, trivial, and earthly kingdoms and politics– in this example of the flower, God reveals the struggle in the covenant to be and become; God reveals His Kingdom.

[1] Brown, New International.
[2] Harris, Understanding, 504.
[3] N.T. Wright, “Jesus and the Kingdom.”
[4] John Perkins, With Justice for All (California: Regal, 1975), 138-139.
[5] Wright, “Jesus and the Kingdom.”
[6] Clive Staples Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 157.

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