In the popular thinking, a kingdom is about power and domination. A kingdom has a king who has absolute control of the citizens of the kingdom. Kings want to expand their territories through conquest. Obviously when a king conquers another territory, he annexes the territory and imposes its rules and manner of living upon the inhabitants. Hence kingdoms of the world are constantly at war – making new conquests and maintaining the territories already conquered. It takes a lot of energy and manipulative strategies, which most of the time can be so brutal and inhuman. If these strategies are not used, the king fears loss of power through rebellion of the subjects. For this reason, Niccolo Machiavelli, a medieval Italian political philosopher advises the Prince to make sure that fear is instilled on the subjects, for through this strategy he will be both feared and respected. His goal should be maintenance and expansion of power through manipulative strategies. Only this way, a king can enjoy the obedience and fear of his subjects. Throughout history, this model of kingship and kingdom has persevered right into our modern versions of leadership.
Our Lord Jesus Christ presents a totally opposing model. He is King of a Kingdom. But right away He makes it clear that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). That is, His kingdom is not about power, manipulation, control or domination over others. He tells his disciples that the kings of this world rule over others, but it should not be so with them because the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:25-28). Peter, the head of the apostles, follows the footsteps of Our Lord and advises the leaders of the Christian communities that they should not rule over the people entrusted to their care (1 Pt. 5:3).
The Kingdom of Jesus is the Kingdom of Love! Love is that which holds people and things together; love is the principle of life. The love that is meant is selfless love; love that pours itself out in self-giving to others, and through this self-gift, life is saved, promoted, and nurtured in others. For this reason, the Kingdom of Jesus belongs to the lowly, the humble, forgotten, and abandoned. It belongs to the lame, the blind, the crippled, the wounded, the suffering, the sick, the unassuming! These people belong to the Kingdom not by default, but because they survive only through their trust in the Lord. In the kingdoms of the world, these lowly people are trampled upon or shoved by the roadside. But the Lord honors and respects them.
The Kingdom of Jesus is not about power, control, domination or oppression. Those who choose to belong to the Kingdom of Jesus live by love and generosity. They give of themselves totally and serve life wherever they see it. They are possessed by the Spirit of Jesus; the Spirit that does not cling to itself, but continuously gives itself so that others will live.
The powerful and those who thirst for power and domination and recognition often find it very uncomfortable in the Kingdom of Jesus. Or, if they come in, they try to transform the Kingdom of Jesus into one of power and domination – a transformation that happens often in the history of the Church. But the lowly, whose hearts have been melted by the love of Jesus, will always stand out as beacons of light in the midst of the destructive elements of power and domination.
Jesus is the King of the Universe. He rules not by raw power and domination, but by love and self-giving. The Church is the visible sacrament of the Kingdom of Jesus, and as such, we look up to Jesus our King and Lord, and pray that we can each be possessed by his Spirit so we can live as citizens of the Kingdom of Love.
~Fr. Cornelius Okeke