These examples make it clear that the guidelines for living that Jesus gave, that is, his ethics, were grounded in his apocalyptic worldview. They are probably misunderstood, therefore, when they are taken as principles for a healthy society. […]The motivation for ethical behavior, then, sprang from the imminent arrival of the Kingdom, to be brought by the Son of Man in judgment. —The New Testament: A historical introduction to the early Christian writings, Bart D. Ehrman, 2016. p293.
I’ve been noodling along toward catching up on my homework. I would have thought, given that it’s Spring Break for all my classes, that I would knock everything out last Monday… “this” being two textbook chapters and a nonfiction book on the historical Jesus, along with my church-class chapter. In real life, that would be a big NO, though I have managed to square away the textbook. So I won’t have to take it with me to The Metroplex this weekend. Anyway.
Both my current textbook chapters and my nonfiction book have waded deeply into Jesus as a proclaimer of the Kingdom of Heaven. Heck, my midterm even splashed in Jesus’ Kingdom shallows. But the aforementioned sentences still caught me off-guard. Do what? Jesus’ principles misunderstood—what?
So I stared at them a little longer. And then their sharp edges shifted into something just as hard, though easier to sustain as a believer:
the guidelines for living that Jesus gave are not intended as principles for a healthy society on earth, because Jesus doesn’t focus on life on earth. Jesus focuses on the Kingdom of Heaven.
But if the Kingdom of Heaven is the perfected community, the community where all live in tight communion with God—as we lived in Eden—then living by its principles in the imperfect now wouldn’t be a poor choice.
Probably. Assuming your definition of “good life” looks to the Kingdom of Heaven. It could be hard to accomplish, however, and there would be plenty of contemporarily-valued activities and behaviors you’d leave out. So it likely wouldn’t look “good” to lots of folks around you. Might not even look healthy, depending on how your community defines health.
Which indeed sounds like “misunderstood” when set next to many purportedly Christian messages that are shared across US medias. (I still haven’t recovered from The Prayer of Jabez, though that was over fifteen years back.)
Those who began to implement the ideals of the Kingdom, where there would be no sin, hatred, or evil, had in a sense begun to experience the rule of God here and now.
I dug into Dr. Ehrman’s bona fides back when I dug into his textbook: when dealing with material designed to excavate the foundations of my faith, I want to know as much as possible about both the tools and those who make them. Turns out he’s apostate, which has always sounded dreadful to me despite precisely meaning “one who has abandoned a religious or political belief.” Yet for all that, I think the ghosts of his original Christian faith remain.
Or maybe the Kingdom of God is too wonder-ful for even the secular to withstand, despite we Christ-followers’ difficulty in maintaining Jesus’ steady focus in the 2000 years since he stopped living as a human.
Lord Jesus, come soon.