“The Kingdom of God is within you.”
Commentators on these words of Jesus in Luke 17:21 are almost unanimous in expressing their disbelief that Jesus intended the literal meaning of his words “within you” to apply to the small group of Pharisees to whom he was speaking. But since when did a commentator’s incredulity alone constitute adequate exegesis? It sounds to me more like they are refusing to hear what Jesus is saying. And as I reported in an earlier post, variant translations for this particular Greek phrase which render the English as ‘in your midst’ or ‘among you’ are not found in any other Biblical text whatsoever. By contrast, “within you, in your hearts” has the authority of Ps. 38:4, 108:22, 103:1, Isa 16:11, Dan 10:16, Ecclus. 19:23.
Yesterday I commented on a post by a Christian blogger who was trying to mount an argument against the literal meaning of this text from Luke. I’ve seen this kind of attack before on Luke 17:21, and it happens to be a matter of prime importance to me, so I’m taking a stand for its literal meaning.
But what makes it so hard for my fellow Christians to accept a teaching of Jesus which extends the blessings of God’s presence even to his enemies? Are they really listening to Jesus? And anyway, which of Jesus’ so-called friends has completely escaped temptation and rebellion? If we find that the spirit of God dwells with patient love in all such men and women, even in the face of their misunderstanding and antipathy, it is not impossible, I think, to have faith that this patient spirit also waits within all mankind.