“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9
And perhaps that’s why the kingdom of God is, in a very important sense, not yet upon us. There aren’t many of us who have truly put the hand to the plow and not looked back. But, of course we look back! In this sense, are there any of us who are truly fit for the kingdom of God? Probably not. Still, if you are like me, then you have some sense of what it is like to be captured by the beauty of a vision of a better world, of a more free and peaceful culture.
Often it begins on a very personal, individual level, with a vision of our own life as a better life: experiencing more inner peace, living with greater happiness, feeling more connected, or experiencing the serenity of simply observing the present moment, as it is. Then it extends outward, to imagining what it might be like for a culture to encourage harmony and happiness rather than to be so destructive and harmful.
Wherever it starts, this vision of the beautiful soul, of the beloved society, is the core spiritual motivation to put the hand to the plow, to invest one’s whole self in bringing about the kingdom of God. It is a self lost in the truth of hope. But this is a process, is it not?
Over time, less and less are we held back by attachment to things like convention. Less and less do we retreat to the old patterns of ego, until we find that our backward glances have become quite infrequent and less filled with longing.
The beauty of the hope of the kingdom of God is found in how holistic it is: it is deep inner transformation of the individual who simultaneously looks outward with compassion at others, at the immediate culture, and at the entire world. With this vision of the beauty of the kingdom of God, one puts the hand to the plow, one does the work, one endures beatings from cops at protest rallies, speaks out on behalf of those being exploited by the powerful, identifies with those at the bottom, gives up the high paying job, renounces being surrounded by material comfort, leaves behind personal security, or fights developers and profiteers who want to destroy tracts of land to convert a living habitat into dead money.
We all do what we can. Whatever path we take for the kingdom of God, we confront the power structure with our own unique set of talents, gifts and abilities. Hand to the plow. At the times when our inner vision of the beauty of the kingdom of God is clear, we don’t look back.