catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 14 :: 2006.07.14 — 2006.07.28


Late night thoughts on being a disciple of the Kingdom

The word ‘citizen’ has but six occurrences in the New Testament (RSV), five of them from that occasion when Paul plays his Roman citizenship as a trump card to save himself when under arrest by the authorities of an empire from which he carries a passport (Acts 22.25ff).  Perhaps this episode in itself portrays the relative importance of the category.  One pulls out the passport when asserting one’s identity as ‘citizen’ allows one to live another day out of one’s primary identity as disciple.

To speak of citizenship is to ask ‘what confers my identity?’  In the hierarchy of possibilities, where does ‘citizen of the United States of America’ fit?  For some, it is primary, ranking above, and profoundly shaping one’s understanding of oneself as, Christian.  Others seek to conflate ‘Christian’ and ‘American’ as if the two categories were mutual and utterly compatible, as if Christendom and the United States were coextensive.

But I wonder if the question is rather a matter of where, or perhaps more crucially with whom, do I feel at home. If my allegiance is first to my family, I’m living out of nepotism.  If it is to my community, I’m provincial.  If it is to my nation, I’m a nationalist. But if it is to the human race and to the One who transcends all divisions of race, nation, ethnicity, religion, language, privilege, then perhaps I will have found my true home. If the notion of monotheism means anything, it means that we are all children of the same parent, and therefore siblings, in spite of every category that clamors for our allegiance.

So it is that I find myself in more profound communion at times with people of another religion who are much taken with mystery than with those of my own tradition who are sure doctrinal formulations are sufficient to explain the complexities of life, love, suffering, compassion and death.   So it is that the atheist who is not defiant about what she doesn’t believe, but rather is seeking a coherence between lived experience and theological construct, is my sister.  So it is that the one seeking to plumb the richness of what it means to be Christian rather than brashly asserting denominational identity or a particular position on biblical authority or what cannot be questioned, is my comrade.

The Bible has hundreds of references to ‘kings,’ and yet Jesus commented once upon a time that his kingship was not of this world (John 18.36).  So then, our citizenship is not of this world, but is of a kingdom whose ethics are the beatitudes of its king.  And the passport of that kingdom sets us free to meet unexpected people as partners, comrades, disciples, explorers, questers, lovers, servers, doers, givers, askers—all seeking to be at home in a place only sometimes revealed and recognized, but sure and true nevertheless.

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