There was once a man who possessed little political capital or national influence. A man with a ragtag group of followers, a man with more enemies than friends.
There was once a man who lived on the fringes of society, who stood near the edge of a lake, and had the audacity to declare, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows into the largest of garden plants, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Following that man’s lead, Jesus-followers have long shared an enduring, salient characteristic: insatiable optimism.
Ours is an optimism that runs deeper than escapism because it understands that suffering produces hope. Ours is an optimism that can’t be contained by petty martyr complexes, because we follow in the steps of the true martyr who did not retaliate. Ours is an optimism that that counts trials as joy, rejoices always, and boasts in the very circumstances that make us weak.
This same optimism serves as the lens through which I view the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings. I say this as a Christian who believes that marriage is best understood as a covenant between one man and one woman, but not one who sees the rulings as indefensible. Democracy is designed to reflect the will of the majority, after all. I say this as one who has no qualms about legislating basic morality (all laws constitute a form of morality), but I also say this as one who has no desire to force my religious views of marriage on those outside of my faith.
I simply believe that individuals, societies, and cultures are better off operating within God’s will than outside of it. I believe that we all lose when sex shifts from something we do, to who we are. I believe that sin steals and kills and destroys.
And yet, the mustard seed has not died.
The pearl has not been squandered. The treasure has not been lost. The yeast has not gone dry.
The Kingdom remains unshaken.
Jesus heralded a new way, and following him means having a radically different perspective, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a 90210 episode, where love and acceptance was tied to performance and dependent on conformity.
Jesus was always a part of the minority, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a cornered animal, pressed against a wall, lashing out against its attackers.
Following Jesus has always meant adhering to a drastically different sexual ethic, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a scarlet letter ‘A.’
Even Jesus enjoyed the financial generosity of others, and it’s possible that last week’s ruling could effect next generation’s tax exempt status, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a 501 c 3.
Jesus knew what it was like to weep over Jerusalem, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a funeral.
The kingdom is coming, and and the kingdom is here. SCOTUS or no, DOMA or no, we are called to live as subjects of the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom is populated by the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, and the merciful. The kingdom is ruled by the meek and is a realm where enemies are loved, outcasts are embraced, and the lost are found. Those in the kingdom hunger for righteousness and are pure in heart, and so of course they tolerate no bigotry, bullying, or discrimination. Entrance may be gained only through a small gate and narrow road, but admission is granted to all who knock, and is found by all who seek.
We don’t need political capital or national influence any more than the man by the lake. We’ll never amount to more than a group of ragtag followers ourselves, and when we’re honest we have to admit we often act as enemies rather than than friends.
But may our insatiable optimism always lift our gaze beyond our country, away from our own reflection, and always towards the kingdom.