Monday, April 26, 2010

"My kingdom is not of this world"

Up and down the centuries, men and women have fought great battles with the view to expand their kingdoms. It was largely assumed that power, might and glory were associated closely with the accumulation of physical land, power, subjects and resources. And the more that one could claim as one’s own, the better.

On the level of the individual, these ‘battles’ are now still being fought. A casual glance at the myriad of advertisements across all media will see the touting of the latest, most exclusive, most unique item that will accord us the most attention and (perceived) respect. This feeds on the same hunger as the one that made our ancestors expand their kingdoms in centuries past. So, while we may not be interested now in kingdom expansion, we are still, albeit in a more subtle way, seeing a continued need to expand our egos.

In the passion narrative of Christ in John’s gospel, Jesus has a very interesting dialogue with Pilate, where we are given an important insight of the key of how to live life in a truly liberating and enlightened way. In the discourse, Jesus informs Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world.

Our being disciples of Christ has largely missed this point. But when only understood in a narrow way, we may think that in saying this, Jesus is renouncing anything to do with this world. The early church had fought against many dualistic heresies, where advocates or devotees of dualism would deny anything good to the physical, material world. They would uphold only that which is spiritual. The Church has never denied the goodness, truth and beauty of the physical world. Neither does it condemn movements that promote personal growth and betterment of the person. We would only be very cautious when movements to pursue personal growth were made at the expense of and detriment of spiritual growth.

When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he isn’t saying that the world is not good. Why would he, when right at the start of Genesis, we are told over and over and over again “it is good, it is good, it is VERY good”? At the heart of his statement, what Jesus is saying is that this world, as we know it, the materiality of things, is not eternal. It will end. There is finitude to this world. Don’t love it as if this is the ONLY ultimate reality, because it isn’t. If there were a phrase that I could borrow from today’s lingo, it would be “don’t sweat the small stuff”. But I guess Jesus would be saying in fact “don’t even sweat the world”.

We just observed Earth Day on 22 April, and we know that we should be doing all that we can to ‘save the earth’. I am all for conservation and preservation efforts. But as Christians, could we be missing the point if our efforts at being ‘green’ are done without caring if our souls are becoming ‘scarlet’? Could our concern about the size of our carbon footprints far overshadow the way we step over so many peoples’ lives and hearts? We may be reducing toxic emissions into the atmosphere to clear our vistas and skylines but at the same time, perhaps we should be seeing how our view of God is at toxicity levels that stifle growth and maturity.

“My kingdom is not of this world” does not mean that we should live carelessly and with wild abandon. Our great struggle as Christians is really to handle the delicate balance – to not be dualists, to not be extremists or puritans. We should not be reckless or going into free-fall either. This must be the challenge that faces every enlightened, dedicated and true disciple of Christ.


  1. Thank you for sharing your reflections. I happened to stumble on your post through a friend's recommendation at our group blog, so there's value in staying connected! I like the quote if Jesus were present, he'll tell us in today's lingo, "don't even sweat the world." and souls being scarlet while we try to make the earth a greener place. Thought provoking!

  2. I agree that our narrow interpretation of being a disciple of Christ has more often than not work to our detriment. Sometimes we hold back from rejoicing full-heartedly in God's largesse ( to ourselves or our neighbours ) for fear that it is 'unspiritual' & is not becoming of a disciple. Yet I'm sure to take delight & enjoyment in the goodness of the earth can be a 'spiritual' experience too ......only problem is how to tell - when one is flaunting & when one is witnessing to His goodness......tessa

  3. Dear Father Luke

    I just arrived home from attending "Why do Catholics Attend Mass" by Fr JJ. At one point, my godchild sitting next to me whispered to me "I don't think as human beings, we can be totally detached from the world, only priests and nuns can, as it is easier as you live apart from the world"

    I didn't have time to explain to her. For I believe that all of us have the same opportunities to be set aside, and live holy lives, only if we are prayerful, and live in discernment. This takes time and conscious effort. Like Jesus did, we should go aside from the crowd and spend time with our Father.

    Indeed, this creation of God is very good, and we should take care of it so that every human alive should have fair share. We should also include treating our fellow human beings as God's creations, especially the poor, widows, single parents, and the down trodden.

  4. Thanks frLuke, for the Truth :)
    Also, to share what FJS wrote:- "So long as one lives for treasures that moths consume and rust eats and thieves steal, there is no possible escape from anxiety and worry"