Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 106: The Kingdom of God
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 106: The Kingdom of God

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

What is the kingdom of God, about which Jesus talked so much? Thoughtful Christians have offered a wide range of explanations; the best I can do is to share my thoughts and hopefully shed more light. As I read the Bible, I get the impression that “entering” the kingdom of God is an experience that does not lend itself to words. This is why Jesus frequently said, “The kingdom of God is like …” and then he often used parables, which generally described people doing things that involved love, caring, and compassion.

There is a spiritual as well as worldly component of the kingdom of God, and Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). However, I regard the kingdom of God as different from heaven. I see it as a state of existence attained by faith and/or activities that connect a person to God and God’s Creation. It is a state of perfect peace and contentment. It is harder to experience the kingdom of God while in pain, but not impossible. For example, Stephen appeared to be at peace with God and the world, even as he was being stoned: “And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And he knelt down and cried in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:59-60).

The kingdom of God is difficult to understand for the same reason that monotheism is a difficult and, I think, often misunderstood concept. I think that monotheism posits that God has one essence, but a problem is that our minds are inherently dualistic. The reason our minds are dualistic is that our minds think with language, which itself is dualistic. Language is dualistic because words obtain meaning from the double (or dualistic) tension between what the words do describe and what they do not describe. Words cannot describe a unitary concept that has no opposite. For example, “big” only has meaning because it is more than “little,” and “chair” gains meaning by virtue of what defines what it is (something with legs upon which someone sits) and what it is not (e.g., something upon which one lies in order to sleep). Without the existence of things that are not chairs, chairs themselves would have no meaning. We understand the meaning of “running” because it involves movement (i.e., not stationary) which differs from other forms of movement (e.g., walking). Indeed, our self-consciousness appears to rely on human dualistic language. We can only be aware that we exist in a certain place and time because we can imagine ourselves not existing in other places and times. An infant and a dog are both conscious in that they have awareness and feelings, but neither appears to have self-consciousness.

If we were able to align ourselves with God, as Jesus did, there would be no you/me, subject/object dichotomies that define our everyday experience. This is why I regard the kingdom of God as both individual and communal – there is no distinction between one’s own ego and desires and that of the larger community. If we were one with God and God’s creation, we would recognize that what we do to anyone or anything, we do to ourselves. The experience of being at one with God and God’s Creation is not dualistic, and therefore cannot be described with language. This, I think, is why the Tao Te Ching begins, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.” Therefore, Jesus needed to use parables, rather than simple descriptive language, to describe the kingdom of God.

I think Jesus was trying to describe the kingdom of God in terms of our relationships to God and to each other. He said, “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21). With Jesus, relationships should not be grounded on socially constructed power arrangements that have their bases in the scapegoating mechanism; rather, they should be grounded on love and evolve out of doing things for each other. Therefore, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of love and humility, and James said, “Faith without works is dead.” James did not denigrate faith; he recognized that works of love naturally emanate from faith.

Girardian theories about mimesis and the scapegoating mechanism posit that human communities have always come together by expelling one or more individuals. This is the kingdom of humans – communal bonds generated by the act of scapegoating innocent individuals. However, the Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “God is light and in God there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Therefore, when people experience the kingdom of God, they naturally relate to each other and God’s Creation lovingly and nonviolently, not over and against any vulnerable individuals.

Go on to: Part 107: “I Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice”
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