But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
St Peter believed that Christians formed a special society within the world. We belong to the Body of Christ, the Church—we are not Christians alone, but always in relationship to other Christians. Fr John Meyendorff, one of the most profound thinkers in the Orthodox world, writes that we need to be aware of our unique role in the world and what we, together as Church, are supposed to bring to the world:
However, the truly Christian—and perhaps, the peculiarly Orthodox—responsibility today is to show that the solutions to these problems are found in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom which exists ‘within’ and ‘among’ us since God became man. For the Kingdom of God is not only a reality ‘beyond,’ but it is also a living reality in this world. The function of the Church consists not simply in making this world ‘a little better,’ but to make the Kingdom of God present among men.
The church does not carry with it a social utopia, but the ferment of a new humanity, a new eternal order for the world. Only in the Kingdom of God and in the person of Jesus Christ himself does one find the norm, the pattern of social action. Only there is the absolute with which one can evaluate any present situation. (LIVING ICONS, p 223)
The Church is not here to create a utopian society on earth. Rather, it always will be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) and light to the world (Matthew 5:14). In other words, we are not to take over the world but rather to have a relationship to it even though it is and remains a fallen world. We are here to witness to God’s Kingdom, not to grab power or force our ideas on others. We are to love the world which God so loved as to give His only Son to die for our sins. Even Jesus did not try to force others to obey Him – just note the presence of Judas among His disciples, or how he behaves before Pontius Pilate or the Jewish Sanhedrin.
2 thoughts on “The Church, the World, the Kingdom ”
Father, bless – It means so much to me to read your daily message; it really begins my day in the Orthodox spirit. Your nature photos are wonderful, too. Thank you so much for all you share!
Susan, former St. Paul parishioner, now in Massachusetts
God bless you Susan!