The World and The Kingdom The assumption that most people make, christians and non-christians alike, is that christians are simply “nice” people living in the world. As with all assumptions, this one suffers from being overly simple to the point of being dangerous. And when christians themselves accept it, they sooner or later stumble and their spiritual life takes a hard fall. The “world” is what it appears to be: it is the physical universe around us, the human society of which we are a part, and the press of human activity that surrounds us. But it is also more than it appears to be. The “world” is also the set of values that we are encouraged to assume, the priorities that we are asked to accept, and the standard of judgement that we are told we must employ if we are to find our “place” in “the scheme of things”. As such, the World readily tries to tell us what we should put our faith in, whom we should believe, and what is worth while. The World relentlessly presses us to accept what it holds to be true, beautiful and good. The problem with the World and finding our “place” in its “scheme of things” is that it never brings any peace. There is no point at which we can be content. We never are good enough, beautiful enough, wealthy enough, important enough, valuable enough, or have enough. The World is very short on joy. When Jesus began his public ministry, His first words of Good News announced that the World is not the only “scheme of things”, that there is another possibility for human life: “After John’s arrest, Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming the good news of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand!'” Mark 1:14-15 This “other possibility”, this “different scheme of things” Jesus calls the “Kingdom of God”. He invites each of us to come and live in it. He invites us to enter it here and now. “In the World” but not “Of the World” Being a christian means being in the World but not of the World. A christian lives in the World: we live in the physical world, we are a part of human society, and we partake of the human activity around us. But a christian is not of the World: we do not allow the World to tell us what to put our faith in, whom to believe or what is worthwhile. It cannot tell us what is true, what is beautiful and what is good. Our values, our priorities and our standard of judgement are drawn from another source. They are drawn from the “Word of God” and they come from the “Mind of Christ: “Not on bread alone is man to live, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 [Deuteronomy 8:3] “‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the Mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 These new values, priorities and standard of judgement make up a whole “different scheme of things”– a “scheme of things” that christians call the “Kingdom”. Being Different Being a Christian changes your whole relationship with the World — with everyone and everything in it. As a Christian, you will need to “come to grips” with the fact that you will be different from most of the people around you. Explaining the heart and core of the difference, Saint Augustine says: “Both (of you) use temporal goods, both (of you) suffer misfortunes, but with a different faith, a different hope, a different love…” The City of God XVIII.54 Christian Survival To survive as a christian it is essential for you to understand that, while you are in the World, you are not of the World. You need to understand that the World and the Kingdom are different, and you need to gain a clear sense of how they differ. This is the purpose of this short collection of Aphorisms compar- ing the World and the Kingdom. Hopefully, it will give you a sense of how the World and the Kingdom differ, and of what it means to live in the Kingdom as opposed to the World. “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 You need to be not only aware of how the World and the Kingdom differ, you need to be firmly committed to the difference. For you will soon learn that the World makes you pay a price for being different: “The natural man does not accept what is taught by God. For him, that is absurdity… 1 Corinthians 2:14a “You will suffer in the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33 On Action and Character In the World, what a person does (their) actions and accomplishments) are seen as the most important contribution they make to life. Action is primary. In the Kingdom of God, what a person is (the character their form) is seen as the most important contribution they make to life. The character that acts is primary. On the Boundary of Effects In the World, anything a person does is all right as long as it does not affect anyone else. In the Kingdom of God they know that there is nothing that a person is or does that does not affect everyone and all things else. In the Kingdom of God they understand that lives touch, are interrelated and interpenetrate one another and all things. On Which Mind to Live By In the World, a person lives by their own mind and judgement. In the Kingdom of God, a person lives by the Mind of Christ. In the Kingdom of God they know that even the best of human reason and justice still falls short of love. On Things Worth Dying For In the World they hold that, while a person ought to be kind and respectful to everyone and everything, there is probably no one and certainly nothing worth dying for. In the Kingdom of God they believe that there are some things worth dying for — there are people and truths and even “another self” worth dying for. In the Kingdom of God they know that the Art of Dying is the Art of Living, and that the key to fulfillment is to know what to die for. On Freedom In the World, freedom is freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. In the Kingdom of God, freedom is freedom to do that which gives, enhances, preserves and protects life. On Means and Ends In the World, life is a means to power. The lives of others may be manipulated or even destroyed as a means to the end of achieving power. In the Kingdom of God, life is never a means to power. Power (energy, knowledge, force, wealth, learning, influence, etc.) is only a means to the end of giving, enhancing, preserving and protecting life. On the Value of a Person The World locates the value of a person in their soul and body — in the particular combination of talents and abilities they happen to possess (intelligence, artistic ability, force of will, physical beauty and agility). The Kingdom of God locates the value of a person in their spirit — in the unique manner in which they embrace God; and in the unique manner in which God uses their soul and body to touch, handle and love His world. In the Kingdom of God they believe that God is God in one person as He is capable of being God in no other; that He touches handles and loves the world through them as He is capable of touching, handling and loving the world through no one else and in no other way. Hence, in the World some people are expendable. While in the Kingdom of God no one is dispensable. On Values and Virtues In the World there are values: each person decides for himself what is true and what is good. There is no absolute truth or goodness. What is true is what is true-for-me. What is good is what is good-to-me. One person’s values are as good and true as another’s. In the Kingdom of God there are virtues: timeless and absolute truths that are true and good for all and that compel the allegiance of all. On the Human Heart and the Human World In the World, issues of the human heart and the business of the world are seen as distinct and held separate from one another. In the Kingdom of God, issues of the human heart and the business of the world are seen as intrinsically bound up with one another. In the Kingdom of God they know that what is wrong with the human world is what is wrong with the human heart. On Solutions to Human Problems In the World, solutions to problems in the human world are engineered with money and programs. In the Kingdom of God, solutions to problems in the human world begin first with an examination and change of heart. On the Use of Violence In the World, the use of violence is seldom valued in itself, yet it is tolerated and even valued in the pursuit of a just cause. The use of violence is seen as vindicated by the justice of the cause. In the Kingdom of God, the use of violence is not tolerated even in the most just of causes. And if, out of desperation or weakness, the use of violence is resorted to, its use is never seen as vindicated by the justice of the cause but mourned as a tragedy of the human spirit to be atoned for with acts of penance. In the Kingdom of God they know that violence is a monstrous evil that distorts the vision, destroys the sensitivities, and in the end deals death to those who handle it — regardless of the justice of their cause. Unless atoned for with acts of penance, it will certainly visit violence, in another form, back upon those who handled it. On Possessions In the World, a person’s wealth is measured by their possessions. In the Kingdom of God, a person’s wealth is measured by their freedom to be themselves. In the Kingdom of God they know that everything that a person possesses, possesses them. On Forgiveness In the World, forgiving is something you do for someone else — it is a kindness that sets them free from the guilt of having injured you in the past. In the Kingdom of God, forgiving is something that you do for yourself — it is a necessity that sets you free from the burden of anger, resentment and hostility you carry within you because of the past. On Autonomy In the World, autonomy is seen as the supreme personal goal. An autonomous self is the highest of personal achievements. In the Kingdom of God, communion is seen as the supreme personal goal. While autonomy is seen as a necessary stage in personal development, it is a transitory stage. Communion with God, with others, and with the living world around us is the highest of personal achievements. On Seasons and “Dyings” In the World there is but one season to a person’s life and one “dying”. The season is the Season of Self-enhancement: a continuous gathering of people and things to ourself and either the hoarding or consumption of them. The “dying” is the loss of everything in physical death. In the Kingdom of God there are two seasons to a person’s life and two “dyings”. The season of Self-enhancement ends with the first “dying”: the death to Self. The second season is the Season of Self-sacrifice and Self-surrender: a steady emptying of ourself for the life of world around us. It is a season of continuous giving that reaches its climax in the second “dying”, when astonishingly one regains all things in physical death. On Winners and Losers In the World, it is important, in the end, to come out secure and accomplished. Those who are successful are the “winners”, those who fail are the “losers”. In the Kingdom of God, it is important, in the end, to have expended your Self — to have come to the end of yourself. The World’s successful can end up “losers”; the World’s failures can end up “winners”. On Love In the World, love means warm sentiments, strong feelings, aroused expectations: a mutual enhancement of Selves conditioned by the expectation of a balance of returns. In the Kingdom of God, love means acceptance, honesty, understanding, compassion, support, self-sacrifice, faithfulness: an expression and gift of Self unconditioned by the expectation of any return. On the Two Ways The Way of the World is to take counsel of oneself, draw one’s conclusions, and build within their parameters. The Way of the Kingdom of God is Dying, Listening, and Responding. “Dying” is setting aside one’s own conclusions. “Listening” is alertness to new possibilities. “Responding” is co-operation with unexpected Grace. In the World, the scope of one’s action is bounded by oneself. In the Kingdom of God, the scope of one’s action is bounded by Divine initiative.
The World and the Kingdom