In his parables, Jesus often compared the Kingdom of God — the realm over which God’s ethics are allowed to rule and reign — to something quite insignificant.
The Kingdom of God is like a farmer sowing seed in the soil (Mark 4:26-29). The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19). The Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44-46). In other words, the kingdom manner of life is manifested in small and easily overlooked actions, the fruit of which may not be recognized for a long while.
Though he never overcame his own demons, the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, had discovered a profound truth: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” In other words, we transform the world by first transforming ourselves. I believe I have a great need to learn this wisdom. I believe the Christian Church has a great need to learn this wisdom.
This, after all, is the means by which Jesus declared that the kingdom is made manifest. Small, seemingly insignificant actions that transform the world. Not through the enactment of more righteous or “Christian” laws to force individuals to behave as we think best (the error of Constantine and far too many Christ followers since).
Rather, it is by a way that is cruciform — that is, by means of a path that gives up all rights to coerce and conquer by force. This is how Jesus proclaimed his followers were to transform the world — a nonviolent revolution that manifests a kingdom that is yet coming.
Jesus’ critique of the religious leaders of his day was that they cleaned the outside of the cup but failed to recognize that death reigned within (Luke 11:39). This is the failure of coercion — it never produces transformation. You can force conformity without producing true change.
By contrast, Jesus declared that if you want to overcome the power of evil, you do so through the power of self-sacrificial love. Put another way, if you want to transform a world filled with hatred, violence, racism, sexism, bigotry, injustice and other manifestations of systemic evil, you don’t do so through the power of the sword. That is, you do not revolutionize the world through the power of laws to coerce behavior. Rather, you transform the world through the ethics of God’s kingdom, a nonviolent revolution taught and embodied by Jesus.
Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), walking an extra mile (Matthew 5:40), loving enemies (Matthew 5:43a), and praying for persecutors (Matthew 5:44b) may seem foolish and devoid of the power to overcome evil and injustice. Yet this is how the Kingdom of God comes upon the earth. According to Jesus, might never makes right. Evil is not overcome by greater evil. Violence is not defeated by greater violence.
After all, the cross is the ultimate renunciation of power and force and violence to achieve the purposes of God. It is never an easy path. In fact, it seems a foolish way to live. After all, rejection, critique, exclusion, abuse, misunderstanding and death were the fate of the one who came to show us another and better way. It seems a waste of a good life. It seems a magnificent defeat. It seems that evil has triumphed. Yet Jesus’ revolutionary nonviolent approach continues to transform the world wherever it is made manifest.
So let us learn a lesson from the late King of Pop by accepting the revolutionary power of nonviolence, which exposes the failure of coercion and embraces a way of change that begins with you and me. It is a way that truly changes the world, shapes it into a better place and brings a little more of heaven into God’s good creation.
But it only happens when we reject coercion as valid and embrace the foolishness of the cross. We as individuals, and collectively as the Church, must stop pointing out the splinters in the eyes of others and stop seeking to pass laws to remove them; we must start recognizing the logs in our own eyes. In the end, if we want to make the world a better place, let us take a long look at ourselves and then make a change.