Jesus Teaches Unity
The polarities and feuds of his times were omnipresent:
- Semitic (Jesus’ native ethnicity) vs. Indo-European (Romans and Greeks)
- The term “Semitic” included not only Jews, but also Arabs, Aramaic-speakers, and others.
- Jews vs. Roman Occupying Army
- Collaborators with Rome vs. Resistance Fighters (Zealots)
- Jews vs. Samaritans (nearby mixed Semitic race)
- Sadducees vs. Pharisees (within the leadership of Judaism)
- Rich vs. Poor
- Insiders vs. Outsiders
- Practicing Jews vs. “Sinners”
- Tax Collectors vs. Taxpayers
- Government vs. General Population
- Clergy (Priesthood/Rabbis) vs. Laity
- Healthy vs. Diseased/Disabled (Lepers, etc.)
Jesus had direct interaction with all of the above, samples of many above categories were in his inner circle. Among his twelve students (disciples), there was a tax collector/collaborator (Matthew) and a resistance fighter/Zealot (Simon). That must have made for some interesting campfire discussions…
Most people today, when asked about the center/core of Jesus’ teaching, would answer: “The forgiveness of sins.”
Now certainly Jesus taught on forgiveness, but he put more emphasis on OUR forgiving of others, not on God forgiving us.
Lest you think I am some heretic, God’s forgiveness of our sins was certainly important to Jesus and is personally important to me. It just was not the central beating heart of his teaching.
Jesus’ main message was that of the malkuth (A Hebrew word for reign, monarchy, or kingdom) of God/heaven. Malkuth is a noun derived from the root word melek (or “king”). The Greek language of the original New Testament records it as basilea, from which we get the word “basilica,” or royal reception hall/throne room (many of which were turned in to churches when Christianity became legal).
The “malkuth ha-shamayim” (rule from heaven, translated in most English bibles as “kingdom of God/heaven), formed the central concept for everything Jesus said and did.
It’s actually a very sophisticated and potent cosmological world view. There is one Creator and one Creation. The physical world is real, but it has an intentional spiritual cause and source. And we humans are brought intentionally into this Creation to be partners with the Creator.
His teachings attempt to get us to believe that we have access to the same spiritual power (malkuth) that is behind everything. Jesus called the Creator “Abba,” (a loving Semitic word for a benevolent “Father”). If we have one parent, then we are all sisters and brothers. If sisters and brothers, we might want to act like it. This power is unified and universally available to all people, and if we remain factious and divided, we lose access to this source of strength and life. We no longer inherit the kingdom, as the English Bible expresses it.
It’s striking how different the Lord’s Prayer (the only prayer taught directly by Jesus) comes across once one has uncovered the centrality of malkuth in Jesus’ teachings:
- Our Father who art in heaven.
- Abba. One parent. One source. One creation. Heaven is the spiritual realm which generates the physical realm.
- Hallowed be thy name.
- Reverence for the unified source of everything leads to reverence for the creation and Abba’s children, our sisters and brothers on the planet.
- Thy kingdom come.
- Abba, send the power of your malkuth through us. Make us aware of the spiritual power available to us.
- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Bring the physical world in line with the spiritual world, which already is unified and benevolent.
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- Help us to realize that resources are not scarce. Jesus fed the 5,000 with the contents of a lunchbox. The lie of scarcity creates competition for resources. The creation is not a closed system—it is dynamic. Reality is not a zero-sum game.
- And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
- The original wording of the prayer has God’s forgiveness of us coming in second to our forgiveness of others. Not holding grudges. No keeping score in an “us vs. them” game.
- Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
- Humans are capable of catastrophic psychopathic evil. Keep us from the decisions that lead us there, especially when we are tempted to turn our neighbors into enemies.
- For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
- Send forth your unified rule (malkuth) of love and benevolence into every corner of the creation, not just temporarily, but permanently. And send it through us, your children.
Did you notice that there is nothing exclusively Jewish or Christian about this prayer? Anyone on earth who believes in a higher spiritual source or authority can pray it. Jesus wrote it for everyone, not just for Christians.
Jesus was asked by the academics of his day, “What is the greatest of the commandments?”
- Hear O Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is ONE.
- Literally, in Hebrew, “one” comes from “echad” or, a “singularity.”
- And you shall love the LORD God with all your heart, soul, and strength.
- And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The follow-up question was: “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus went on to tell one of the crown jewels of all his parables, The Good Samaritan.
Samaritans were considered (by those listening to the parable for the very first time), at best “untouchable” and at worst, enemies of God.
But Jesus made the Samaritan the hero of the parable. And a paragon of “neighbor.”
Fulbright Scholar, University of Bonn
Senior Pastor, Robinwood Church, Huntington Beach, California
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (Pentecostal)