Consider with me one more article concerning the Kingdom of God before we move to a different topic in the next/eighth chapter of Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT).
Who Is “You”?
Unlike many (most?) languages of the world, in English there is no difference between the singular and plural second person pronoun. That is, you can refer to one person or to two—or many more—people.
Partly for that reason, there has been some misunderstanding of the Bible for those who read it exclusively (or even primarily) in English. In spite of being able after seminary to read the New Testament in Greek, to a degree, I usually just read the English translation for devotional use and even for sermon preparation before going to Japan.
As I began to prepare sermons in Japanese, however, over and over again I noticed that passages I had always thought of as speaking to individuals were, indeed, speaking to multiple people, to a community, for you was plural in Japanese just as it is in Greek.
“You” in the KoG
Western Christianity has usually placed far more emphasis on individuals than upon society. Accordingly, individualistic interpretation of the Bible emphasizes that God loves me, Jesus died for me, I can be saved through faith in Jesus, and when I die I will go to Heaven.
To be sure, that is an important part of the Gospel message—but it is certainly not the only, or maybe in the larger scheme of things, the most important.
Emergent church leader Brian D. McLaren has importantly emphasized this point in recent years—but, unfortunately, many Christians don’t seem to have gotten the point yet.
One of McLaren’s books is The Secret Message of Jesus (2006). That “secret message” he elucidated shouldn’t have been so secret, for it was, after all, a central teaching of Jesus.
What was that teaching? It was primarily not about isolated individuals but about the kingdom of God, a new society populated by people who form a community of faith.
“You” and the KoG Here and Now
Not only has the Western understanding of the kingdom of God often been individualistic, it has also often been other-worldly. By “other-worldly” I mean, of course, that it has been more about life after death rather than about life now on earth.
The “pie in the sky by and by” sort of thinking was used by some, and perhaps many, slaveholders in the nineteenth century to mollify their slaves. And to some degree the same kind of thinking was utilized by white Christians to keep African-Americans satisfied with their inferior status for a century, and more, following the end of the Civil War.
Martin Luther King, Jr., alludes to that sad situation in his powerful book Why We Can’t Wait (1963). He writes, “To the ministers I stressed the need for a social gospel to supplement the gospel of individual salvation.”
King says that he also rejected religion which “prompts a minister to extol the glories of Heaven while ignoring the social conditions that cause men an earthly hell.”
Throughout his book introduced above, McLaren emphasizes that "the secret message of Jesus isn’t primarily about ‘heaven after you die.’ It doesn’t give us an exit ramp or escape hatch from this world; rather it thrusts us back into the here and now so we can be part of God’s dreams for planet Earth coming true" (p. 183).
So surely, one of the true things that everyone needs to know now is that the kingdom of God is more about society than about individuals and is about now as well as the future._____
[In the seventh chapter of TTT, which you can read by clicking here, there is much more to read regarding this important matter.]