Jesus is King, the scriptures say. We celebrated this at church last Sunday because it was the Feast of Christ the King. As I prayed and contemplated, I wondered if the feast day matters more to the Christians who live in modern monarchies than me, an American who only knows about human kings from what I have learned on TV and studying history.
To be clear, I do think of Jesus as King, but that’s only because I am focused on the “Thy Kingdom Come” stuff. Mostly, though, Jesus is my friend, teacher, guide, and main love. I sure do try to let him rule over my life and heart too, though, and I totally hope and believe that Jesus is ruling over the world in a very involved and intimate way.
I am also aware of how calling Jesus King, or anything of the like, is not comfortable for some Christians.
While I was in college and discerning religious life I visited many religious communities and had a lot of interesting conversations. I remember how when I slept in a convent for the first time it felt like such a big deal, like high school prom had. At another convent, I remember the sisters challenging me- somewhat sternly- about how I talked about God. I didn’t call God “God” very much at that point, but instead I said “Lord.” I remember one of the elder sisters saying with sharpness, “Please don’t call God ‘Lord.’ If God is a Lord, then I’d have to be serf, and that’s not a God I want to worship!”
Similarly, since entering this religious lifestyle I have learned that many Christians are offended by any language that calls God “king.” Also, I understand that many Christians would prefer to say “reign of God” instead of “kingdom of God.” I get it. It can turn some of us off from loving God if we associate him with oppressive experiences. Also, I know we need to broaden our images of God, and to only think of God as male or King can be limiting. We need to know the infinite amount of names and not get stuck on one. As I once heard the great late, Sister Barbara Bowe, RSCJ state, “we need to multiply our metaphors!”
But, if the Bible talks about Jesus as King, and Jesus talks about his Kingdom it seems like it’s okay to use that language. Admittedly, I am not a Bible scholar, or even a theologian, so I am not an authority on this. I do know, however, that language helps to frame the way I serve and live.
My students and I have been discussing what the Kingdom of God means. For many of them, it’s heaven. For me, it’s what we’re working for now. Both are true, but I know I am more oriented toward the latter.
When it comes to the vision, I am guided by the preachings of Jesus. Also, I recently realized that my vision of God’s kingdom- and my understanding of monarchies in general- is greatly influenced by my favorite film, Ever After.
I realized that the film- and the Cinderella story in general- have always been my favorite because its a story of social justice. It’s a story of an oppressed woman using her brilliance, beauty and brains to rise up and unite with a powerful man. She challenges and humbles the prince. She sharply quotes Utopia and enlightens royalty about the plight of the poor. Although there is conflict and tension eventually the prince is converted and decides to use his wealth and power to set people free.
It’s even better with Jesus. We don’t have to tell him what the poor are going through. We don’t have to enlighten or challenge. In fact, with Christ the King, it’s the other way around. Jesus uses the Kingdom language as as political challenge for the oppressive Kingdoms and social systems of his time, and our time too. Jesus enlightens us and challenges us, because he is with the poor. Jesus is the poor King of Kings and he gets social justice better than anyone.