Any community as a social reality must have boundaries. We cannot grow outwards before we grow up. We need to learn the importance of the 4Ss before we can recognise their limitations.
Nevertheless, social reality cannot bring together insular collectives and a communally fragmented world. The only way to solve the communal dilemma – to build open communities without destroying the one into which we were socialized – is to tap into the transformational power of another Reality.
‘That they may be one, even as we are one’ was the way Jesus summed up his message at the last meal he had with his disciples. Jesus might just about claim that he and his Father were one. But for his followers, let alone his enemies, to become one – if social reality reigns supreme – what a hope!
But that’s what he offered us. His conviction was that Reality – the power of compassion which drives the cosmos – could enable us to love not only our friends but our enemies. And that was not just an offer, it was a divine command: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Phew! No wonder the church has found it such a tough assignment to make the vision of its founder a human reality.
Jesus had no illusions that his followers would find it incredibly hard to live up to his teaching – even if a Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela might have had a good shot at it. So he pointed us to another Reality. It was one which offered a new way of dealing with the consequences of our creating a fearful, fragmented and fractious world. He called that Reality – the kingdom, the kingdom of God
Few of us like the word ‘kingdom’ today. It reminds us of autocratic rulers now well past their sell-by date. And though the title of ‘king’ may have lost its potency, our world still has no shortage of despotic rulers. But a just and compassionate leader – a Pope Francis perhaps? Might that not be a different sort of ‘king’?
Kingdoms need people as well as rulers. So the gift Jesus offers us is the Reality, not just of a ‘king’, but of a kingdom community – of people, past, present and future, bonded together to exemplify what it means to be a community at its zenith. What might such a community look like.