Sun, Nov 21, 2021

A kingdom not "of" this world

A sermon for "Christ the King"
Duration:12 mins 13 secs

“Islamic State” has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings…

which took place in the capital of Uganda this week…

killing three people and injuring dozens more.

All three bombers were radicalised Ugandans…

and were a response to Ugandan soldiers serving as part of an African Union peace-keeping force…

which is currently fighting Islamic militants in Somalia.

Meanwhile, in Australia…

right-wing extremist groups have become very active…

especially in Victoria…

infiltrating anti-vax groups and pandemic protests…

seeking to covert young people to their brand of conspiratorial and violent extremism.

Indeed, it has been estimated that…

in the past five years…

radical extremism in all of its flavours…

has increased by over three hundred percent.

Sociologists, psychologists, and counter-terrorism experts point out… 

that radicalisation to violent extremism involves a complex set of pressures.

It’s a response to feelings of frustration…

a sense of neglect and/or betrayal…

a dislocation from social networks and the larger community…

and an experience of trauma in which people feel unsupported…

and from which they can find no meaningful way out.

And, when they cannot sense any way out of their situation… 

they disengage morally from the community.

If they feel uncared for, trapped, and violated against––

physically, psychologically, socially, or spiritually––

then violence, as a response, comes to be seen as an appropriate reaction to elicit change.

And so it is that––

in effect––

hate begets more hate…

and violence begets more violence. 

Indeed, what we see so often is simply a cycle of violence.

And in this cycle of violence––

as the English theologian, Giles Fraser, points out––

the combatants… 

“come to look more and more like each other. They become like enemy twins––though both use any means possible to morally distinguish themselves from each other. Still, they respond to each other in the same way”.

Instead, he pleads…

“we must break the cycle by refusing to mirror our enemies”…

by refusing “to be defined by the violent other”…

by refusing “to answer back in kind”.

But it’s hard.

It goes against the grain.

It’s so contrary to our natures…

to our instinct…

to the way that the world is and the way that the world works.

When attacked, we have to defend ourselves.

When those whom we love are hurt, we want to hurt back.

But unless we stop––

unless we stop retaliating;

unless we stop giving into hate and the need for revenge––

nothing is going to change.

We will just keep feeding this vicious, violent cycle.

Take, for example, the group “Islamic State”.

As has been pointed out by commentators… 

one of their goals––

indeed, it is something that they state clearly in their own literature––

is to split the world into two.

They want countries in the West to reject and vilify Muslims…

because if Muslims are made to feel as if they don’t belong…

that they aren’t welcome in the West…

that they are only regarded with loathing and contempt…

then they will join Islamic State.

So, every time that some ignorant racist here harangues or attacks an innocent Muslim;

every time that someone makes an Islamophobic insult;

every time that a populist politician fosters division and hate…

they are simply helping Islamic State.

They are simply helping to perpetuate this evil, merry-go-round of violence;

and it will continue until we––

or our descendants––

“will be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”…

as Martin Luther King jr so eloquently put it.

We must break the cycle.

But we can only do so with a radical change:

not just in our structures;

not just in the way that we do things;

not just in the way that we speak and the language that we use;

but in the way that we think;

in the way that we live and breathe;

in the way that we see ourselves and the “other”;

in who we are in the very core of our beings.

As King, himself, made clear:

“Returning hate for hate only multiplies hate… Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.

Love, not hate, must be our response––

even to those who would do us harm;

perhaps especially to those who would do us harm.

Our example, in this, is not the Pauline Hansons of the world…

but, rather, the young Frenchman whose wife was killed in a terrorist attack in Paris…

and who––

addressing those responsible––

declared, “You will not have my hatred”.


And for those of us who claim the name of ‘Christian’––

for those of us who seek to follow Christ––

we have the perfect example of this from Jesus himself.

We find it expounded time and time again in Jesus’ own teaching… 

in all of the Gospels:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”;


If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also”.

And we see it––

again, in all of the Gospels––

in the way that Jesus went to his death:

without a word of hate or revenge.




this wasn’t just something about which he spoke. 

It wasn’t just a value or ideal that he espoused.

It was something that he lived.

It was something that he embodied.


And yet, in our reading this morning from John’s Gospel––

in the interchange between Jesus and Pilate––

the author offers an even more profound insight.

In response to Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Judeans?”

The author has Jesus reply, My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…But as it is, my kingdom is not from here”.

My kingdom is not from this world.

It’s not a particularly good translation, because it seems to be framed in a spatial sense:

the kingdom of God is elsewhere…

not here;

its concern is only with spiritual matters––

with personal morality and personal salvation.

That’s certainly how many hear and read it.

But, literally, the Greek says, “My kingdom is not of this world”…

which seems to be pointing to an ‘essential’ sense.

My kingdom is of a different kind to this world.

It has a different origin, a different source;

but, also, it espouses and embodies different values.

Otherwise, the comment about his followers not fighting to rescue him doesn’t make sense.

Here, the author of John’s Gospel makes the bold assertion that Christ is not like earthly kings;

and the ways of God’s Kingdom are not like earthly kingdoms.

If Jesus embodies non-retaliation…


and peace…

then so do his followers––

so do those who belong to this kingdom that is not of this world.


Today, as we celebrate the kingship of Christ…


in effect…

is what we are claiming for ourselves.

That is who we are claiming to be;

or who we hope to become.

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