So, was Jesus really that radical?
What's so new about his kingdom?
The church I grew up in is full of good people. People who have good values and treat each other pretty well. People who work hard and pay their bills and even some of their debt to society. What is confusing to me is that we never looked that much different than the good people in other kingdoms, following other teachers. Good Jews, Catholics, Capitalists, and Patriots had the same value system, voted for the same politicians and had the same stance on moral issues.
What's so radical about Jesus?
As I have dug into the teachings of Jesus for myself and on-purpose decided to question the belief system I was handed I found something that I had never been taught. I cannot take credit for this understanding of Jesus as others before me have perceived the same thing. [John Howard Yoder in his book The Politics of Jesus is a good example.]
We will call this concept revolutionary subordination. In short, Jesus taught freedom. Not just freedom from sin but freedom from all the systems or powers of this world [ie. government, economics, religion, etc.]. This is the revolutionary part. Unfortunately, for the modern moral majority he didn't just leave us to figure out for ourselves what to do with this freedom - he actually lived in such a way as to display for us what his kingdom was all about. This is the subordination part.
Jesus served the very people his kingdom came to oppose. He sacrificed himself for the very people his value system stood against. While being free from the systems or "kingdoms" of his world he did not abolish them by forceful overthrow of them. He spoke against the religious "kingdom" that had enslaved the Jewish people. He spoke against the economic system which had created a wide chasm between the upper and lower classes. He even stood against the political system of his day and establised a kingdom that exercised authority in a radically new way.
But ultimately the kingdoms that Jesus opposed put him to death. It's as if Jesus was able to ignore the natural fear of oppresive authority while he taught that his kingdom opposed the kingdoms of this world. He was radically revolutionary without using the methods of this world.
He established a value system - a personal ethic - that not only is different from the world's values but executes itself in a different way.
The best example I can think of is the popular ethic of "the lesser of two evils" or maybe the
"greatest good for the greatest number". Who hasn't made a decision according to this ethic?
Jesus is never recorded using this ethic. Rather, he asked the question, "What is my father doing?" Even if his decisions seemed to effect no change or negative change he was not bound by the "greatest good" or the "lesser of two evils".
He positioned himself to be in radical opposition to the world and its powers and authority while at the same time giving himself to and for those who opposed and hated him. This is a radical ethic. Does it exist on the earth?