An essay donated by Terry Neal
"The Kingdom of Love"
The Kingdom of Love
Oh how we yearn to enter into the magical Kingdom of Love, or Realm of love. Everyone today, it seems, wants to enter, or re-enter, that glorious state. In less poetic terms what we are all longing for, internally groaning for, is a "relationship," a love relationship.
We want to find someone who cares for us, cherishes us, protects us and allows us to be who we really are. Everybody wants this. It is our number one priority, our most fundamental drive, witness the success of eHarmony.com, Match.com and dozens of others in the field of commercial dating. Wanting a love relationship even exceeds the desire to be rich or famous for most people. "Oh, if I could only find someone to love me." Why are so many of us feeling this way?
Most of us, no matter how many friends we have, no matter how close knit our families are, feel alone, isolated, and that we don’t belong to anything grand, or beautiful or important. We don’t belong to anything . . . or anybody. We’re unimportant. So we desperately want to enter into this elusive Realm of Love that is glorified in poetry, novels and movies. Most of us are not aware that the original conception of this blessed state of intimate belonging is at least 2,000 years old. People have felt small, alone and bereft of anything significant in their live since man first set plow to earth and walled in his cities. Feeling alone, weak and insignificant is a function of what we call "civilization." So, if we want to find love we must understand why we cannot seem to find it. We must discover what the impediments are and if there is anything we can do about it.
Civilization and city-dwelling undermine our ability to love. The first great walled cities appeared about 5000 years ago in the Mid-east. "Civilization" began in earnest. City-dwelling created for the first time in history a situation where each person was more or less independent of the group. The individual became an independent actor on the stage of economics. Each person was now in a competitive relationship with every other person in the city. There was now a free-for-all, an incessant scrabbling, for the "good things in life" – food, lodging places, security and even mates. In this "civilized" paradigm everything became a commodity to be bought and sold and to be competed for. Our modern capitalist societies have taken this competition paradigm to the nth degree. In this model each of us is a "rugged individual" each in a personal "pursuit of happiness," And this happiness is pursued with brief, if not total disregard for others. All others in the capitalist model are our competitors for a finite amount of life’s good things. ("goods"). In this paradigm we learn from cradle, to childhood and into adulthood to be wary of the motives of all others – even our siblings. Don’t trust anyone. They’re after what you are after. Everyone is working an angle, attempting to outwit you, dupe you, use you or diminish you. Every individual therefore must be critically scrutinized. We are actively looking for "red flags." As a society we have become almost paranoid of strangers and our trust of anyone is tentative at best. Our total trust may never be earned. Trust has been undermined by a life of learning not to.
Can you love, can you enter the Realm of Love, without trusting another – fully and completely?
At the same time this underlying and most often unrecognized adversarial attitude undermines our ability to accept others’ weaknesses and imperfections. This cautious and highly critical state of mind applies to potential mates as well as those we see as our competition all around us. And, we can’t help ourselves. These actions and attitudes proceed from a set of core values we have developed over decades of time. It’s the way we see and understand the way the world works and how we, as an individual, fit into that world. We have been taught these things by our parents and have fully adopted them after the hurtful experiences of our youthful naivete because these are mind-sets that help us survive in this dog-eat-dog society. So, as we desperately seek a "love relationship" our overly-critical attitudes are busy hacking away at our attempts to attain our goal – for we are still scrabbling to get the best deal, the best product possible. So, like shopping for clothes we look such potential partners over in the most critical manner and discard those that do not meet a certain degree of perfection. Potential partners are summarily discarded for the most superficial flaws – like the sweater we cast back on the heap because the pattern in the fabric doesn’t align quite right. That sweater might have warmed us admirably well though.
Are any of us perfect? And can you ever have a love relationship without accepting another person’s shortcomings?
The attitudes we constantly harbor also destroy our ability to appreciate others, to recognize their uniqueness and most beautiful inward attributes. Because we are constantly comparing to the best possible deal, most potential "loves" are going to seem lacking. Our concept of the perfect male: big, tough, strong and stoic blinds our appreciation of the short bald man’s sensitive and compassionate nature. That sort of thing looks like weakness compared to the "ideal man." Likewise the chunky lady’s fun-loving, giving nature is discounted by the image of the "ideal woman" and she is overlooked. Appreciation and acceptance are two sides to the same coin. Can we love without acceptance? Can we love without appreciation? We wear ourselves out seeking the best possible and then we find ourselves alone, feeling unloved . . . and feeling unlovable. It seems we just don’t know how to get past the portcullis and into that hallowed Realm of Love, the "Love Relationship" we so desire.
Very few people today speak openly of wanting to enter the Kingdom of God. That term has become antiquated and laced with unpalatable religious overtones. This kind of language make some of us want to gag. And the Kingdom of God . . . that’s heaven, isn’t it? That’s after we’re done on this earth . . . so can’t we leave all that ‘til later? In this modern age we tend to dismiss all religious talk. We put it off anyway. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . we’ll reconsider this stuff when we’re gray and wrinkled and waiting in the departure lounge. Anyway, we reason, it’s probably just archaic claptrap. We don’t really need that stuff. But even as we dismiss religious sounding language and the institutions that promote such thinking – and perhaps rightly so – we still crave to enter into, what we call, "a relationship," a beautiful "love relationship." Little do most modern people realize that the terms "Love relationship," Realm of Love and Kingdom of God are completely synonymous terms. They’re interchangeable. Today "intelligent" "educated" people dismiss religious sounding language and the religious institutions that promote it. And that’s unfortunate because the baby is then thrown out with the bath water.
Two thousand years ago a young Galilean teacher saw how "civilization" had ravaged humankinds’ ability to love. He described how we might regain that ability, how we might enter this intoxicating Realm of Love that we all want and that we all need. But he called it Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven. Yes, that teacher was Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was addressing a religiously inclined society so he couched his ideas in religious language his audience could readily understand. But, if we replace the 1st century term, "Kingdom of God," (or "Kingdom of Heaven") used by Jesus with Realm of Love or even love relationship we soon see how these two wondrous states are very much the same thing and both are "within you" as the Galilean said.
Originally the "Kingdom of heaven" was not some far-off- after-death paradise. It is something inside us, a state of mind. Modern people don’t generally understand this. So we don’t know being in a "Love Relationship" and being in the Kingdom of God are one and the same thing. Each is a way of being. They are the same way of being.
Let’s look at the co-relationships here:
1. The Kingdom of God is a way of being where all material things are equitably shared. Yes, the first generation of Jesus’ followers lived a communal existence. All goods were held in common. You can check me up on that if you like. (see Book of Acts 2:44-46) Likewise in the perfect "love relationship," or the perfect marriage, each partner has an equal right to use all the goods on hand – the T.V., the car, the food, the various rooms of the house. Hey, each of these realms, the Realm of Love and the Realm of God, is a "commonwealth" in the truest sense of the word.
2. In the same way, if we are truly in the Kingdom of God each person willingly and openly shares their particular talents and abilities. One person is good with his hands, the other has a talent for communication and organization, or maybe with numbers, or graphics. Each one is nevertheless an equal partner on the team. Again that’s exactly like all perfect "love relationships," isn’t it? It’s like all good marriages, where each partner, though they are different, are of equal value. In the Kingdom of God (or the Realm of Love) there is no withholding our special talents and neither do we sell them – for money or for favors. All that we have is given freely. To sell our talents or our knowledge for an inflated price, for whatever the traffic will bear, is the way of the world and the very antithesis of the Kingdom of God. It is also the antithesis of the Kingdom of Love, that is, harmonious and loving relationships. In the Realm of Love things, and services to partners, do not have a price, nor are they bartered in a competitive or self-seeking manner.
3. Furthermore in the Realm of Love (or K of G) each person covers for the other partner’s shortcomings. Each dismisses the inherent faults of the other realizing each of us has our own personal limitations, most of which we can not amend. In consequence we make up their lack and they make up ours. That’s love in action, isn’t it?
4. And in the Realm of Love there is no competition to assess who is better and therefore who should have more and who less. Each person is equal in value – even though each is so very different. That is a "love relationship." Anything less is an economic agreement, a business deal. It is not love. It is a pretense, a state of mutual use. And that is the way of the world. Pricing, "fair exchange" and all that is the way of the world, this present world. And that’s what you want to escape from, isn’t it?
5. In the Realm of Love, as in the Kingdom of God our Galilean teacher spoke of, each person upholds and aids the other when they are found to be in a state of distress or sorrow. In turn the others uphold and aid us in such circumstances. Oh, how we long to have such a loving person as our friend and partner.
6. Furthermore in each of these "Kingdoms" each party is entirely committed to the whole. There are no waiver or disclaimer clauses. There are no "pre-nups." There are no conditions. It’s a "’til death do us part" – "come hell or high water" situation. That’s what love is. How could we ever think it was something less? Only that kind of commitment can engender the trust, the appreciation and the acceptance so necessary for a lasting "love relationship."
So, we can conclude that the Kingdom of Love, that rare and glorious state of Love, that modern people, young and old, so desire is the same state that Jesus of Nazareth was referring to with the rather archaic term, Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Love if you prefer) is an entirely different way of being in "relationship" to other people, entirely different than the "jungle," "dog-eat-dog" mentality of modern civilization. "Civilization" – what a misnomer! The Realm of Love we want to enter is founded on Love. And love is acceptance, appreciation, trust and commitment. A love relationship can never be built upon individuality, isolation, disapproval, suspicion and all-out competition. All this is the basis of so-called civilization, always was . . . and is yet in our modern world.
So, since both terms, Realm of Love and Kingdom of God, are equivalent we can dispense with the now-hackneyed phrase Jesus used back in the first century if you find it too religious sounding. Let’s just call this way of being the Kingdom of Love, the Realm of Love or the Way of Love. Jesus knew that if we could enter that realm of Love, that incredibly free wheeling joyous state of mind, a state of mind that we could find within ourselves, it would completely overhaul our thinking processes. Our altered thought patterns would in turn transform the inappropriate behaviors that stem from mankind’s current warped appraisal of the world. If every human being could be induced to enter into this state of Love our world would be forever altered, not just our individual personal lives. Many inter-twined relationships built on love would blossom into a fully functioning Utopian political entity, a literal Kingdom of Love on this tired old earth. And that is precisely what the Galilean foresaw. That is what he predicted. The Realm of Love and the Kingdom of God, it seems obvious, are one and the same state of mind.