Jesus surely made the Kingdom of God a central category (the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s gospel means the same thing. Many people, I have found, mistakenly think the Kingdom of Heaven means heaven.) Yesterday’s link to Scot McKnight shows him arguing that the Kingdom of God for Jesus meant an inclusive community. And he talks a lot about the kingdom vision of Jesus.
Jesus seems to have taught largely by parables, signs, and prophetic pronouncements. So you cannot get straightforward propositions defining the kingdom. His signs included healings, the appointment of twelve to special status to rule the restored twelve tribes, and the table fellowship McKnight mentions.
I agree with McKnight that the Kingdom of God for Jesus must have included both a community and a vision. But did this community and vision embrace Gentiles? For the pre-Easter, historical Jesus, it would be hard to prove that either his community or his vision went beyond Israel. You could argue that his appointing of apostles for the 10 lost tribes certainly reached beyond Israel as it was. But again, you have nothing explicit from Jesus including non-Jews in his kingdom. Paul and the Book of Acts make the case that the post-Easter Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, remedied this. But, given that the gospels were written by the missionary church, we sure don’t find much universal inclusiveness in Jesus before the Easter event.
Jesus had a lot of friendly contact with people characterized as “tax collectors and sinners.” People take this to mean that Jesus was widely inclusive. I personally don’t like the word “inclusive.” The church already had a perfectly good word for this. The word was “catholic”. Some avoid this because it was used as shorthand for Roman Catholic. But it conveys Jesus’ emphasis on reaching out to outcasts without importing notions of non-judgmentalism from pop psychology.
I am sensitive to this because they tried to train me in a kind of pastoral care based on the technique of Carl Rogers. According to Rogers, a counselor should never be judgmental, but always help the counselee to get in touch with feelings and thus activate his or her internal resources for coping and healing.
In practice this means that if someone comes to you and says, “I am upset because my wife found out about my girlfriend and now neither one of them will talk to me.” You are supposed only to reflect back his feelings. You say something like, “That must make you sad.”
Can you imagine Jesus doing that? Do you think Jesus would have dealt with the man’s feelings and not with his tangled up life? As a prophet after the model of John the Baptist, Jesus was damn judgmental. So whatever inclusive vision of community Jesus had, it was not a permissive vision of community.