Imagine for a moment that our world was one great forest. Trees of all shapes and sizes stretch out for thousands of miles, all interconnected and intertwined with one another. What a sight that would be! But, certainly, it actually be quite hard to get a full view of such a forest. Perhaps an individual could climb a high tree and see what was around him. If he or she had binoculars, their view could extend a bit further. But at some point the horizon would end; for the number of trees in sight would be limited and the woodlands would appear like a bounded up area.
This is, of course, not the problem of the forest, but of human perception. We are not omniscient and thus our sight is never full. The result, you could imagine, is that for those people living in the forest, they would never know the true extent of their woodsy home, i.e., all of its inner workings, everything happening in the area, the movement of the various animals. In fact, it’s possible that they could get caught up just looking at the few trees surrounding the space of their home or perimeter that they would never even know about the greater issues surrounding them like their ecosystem and their habitat as a whole.
This short-sightedness, or dare we say blindness, within humans is not just limited to natural wonders. The same can be true for Christians in regard to spiritual matters, like the Kingdom of God and its relational nature to the world. God provides numerous commands about how Christians are to treat people if they want to be a part of His Kingdom. But here’s the problem: God’s commands are not always what Christians think they are. Like the forest, the biblical descriptions for relational ethics are vast. Yes, there are those “trees” in the forest of God’s Kingdom that speak about caring for the immigrant and for the refugee. But there are also “trees” that require us to obey our leaders and recognize their divine appointments to power.
How in the world do we reconcile these two commands? Both of these “trees”, as it were, are pillars in the Kingdom of God. For, indeed, the kingdom is for everyone, from the lowliest of people to the greatest of nations. More importantly, its aim is holistic. It seeks to care for both and all – for the king and the widow, for the father and the orphan, for the rich man and the poor woman.
We as Christians have a tendency to focus on only one aspect of the kingdom when we talk about relating to others. But this is reductive at best. So how do we reconcile all of these various relational aspects together? How do they come together in the kingdom of God? More importantly, what is the greater aim of the kingdom, in which all of these aspects are to play a role?
The answer to these questions brings us to the parable of the wedding feast that Jesus tells a group of Pharisees and lawyers in John 14:1–24. We want to highlight these big picture ideas about the relational nature of the Kingdom of God in this passage. To do so, we will use a theological-literary-historical approach, considering the genre of the parable and its use of metaphors to make the complicated moral truths of this story relatable and understandable to our lives as Christians and, in particular, to our relational engagement with the world.