By the time we get to the New Testament, there’s this whole atmosphere of the Jewish people believing for a Messiah who would set “the world” right, put things back in order. God’s people on top, instead of on the bottom. The way it should be.
In an economy of winners and losers, you always want to be the winner. The problem is, that kind of economy drives people and groups and nations to be on top by any means possible. It’s not a new thing, not by a long shot, that violence and war and oppression has been done in the name of God, in the pretense of “setting the world right.” But all it's done is keep a system of winners and losers in play.
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The Kingdom of God is not built on this system. The world of Christ is not an economy of winners and losers.
Paul said something quite radical in Galatians:
“In Christ’s family, there can be no division into Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. Among us, you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” (Gal 3:28 MSG).
For the Jewish people, a gentile was anyone and everyone who wasn’t a Jew. Paul's statement is a radical declaration of the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Equal. All of us. Together. It is not for us to decide whether or not someone belongs based on their declaration, or absence, of faith. The Kingdom of God levels the playing field: no winners, no losers. Just belonging.
Now, I’m not talking about justice or being wise. But I am saying that the world which Christ gave himself for is a world full of equals; where worthiness is not a factor, and winning or losing does not define our worth.
The whole point of the Jesus message was to get people outside of their own value systems and into the expansiveness of belonging in which the Kingdom of heaven exists. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile.” The whole world is our home, rather than a tiny section of it. We don’t have to fight for our space, we share it with every other soul on the planet. There’s no one group or type of people that should be in control or on top. And others who as a result, end up on the bottom.
Jesus, through his life and message, was always expanding the boundary lines of inclusion. Paul was taking the message from the tribal to the global. Expansion is the model shown us by the universe; it's always expanding in a physical sense… we most likely will never be able to catch up to the edge of creation and watch it unfold. Just like the physical, material, world, our everyday life and living should always be pushing the boundaries of inclusivity, and resisting exclusivity.
We wrestle with this because we live in a world that runs on the system of winners and losers, inclusivity and exclusivity. It’s pervasive and insidious. It's even infiltrated our faith traditions.
But THIS is the way of the world that are we are not to conform to.
The Jewish people were waiting to be vindicated and elevated. And who could blame them? I know a little of what that must have felt like. But Jesus did something entirely different. He inaugurated a new way to be in the world, and it’s our calling to live it into being.
Written by Liz Milani