The Hebrew Scriptures speak of royal personhood being a sign of the messianic times. For example, Psalm 2 sings: “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” Psalm 110 also celebrates this passing on of the divine, royal kingship. In Israel the king is responsible above all for justice and therefore survival of the community.
Christians believe that such a royal person occurred in the person of Jesus who is with the people and calls for both love and justice. Above all, he calls people to the kingdom/queendom of God; that is, he invites all peoples to be royal persons. He calls them to their dignity as images of God—a theology of human dignity and royal personhood.
The Yahwist author and Jesus call people to two things in reminding them of their royal personhood: First, their dignity. Next, their responsibility. A royal person has dignity, a nobility, that proves a starting point for their release from captivity. By reclining with them at table Jesus made the dispossessed feel “clean and acceptable,” in God’s eyes. As Albert Nolan observes, Jesus offers the poor “the full recognition of their dignity as human beings,” and it is by this power that the poor become empowered. “He gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their captivity.” The Good News that Jesus brings is News that all are considered royal persons by God, all have rights, all have divine dignity. He is sensitive to the pain that the oppressed undergo but insists that no one can rob them of their divine and royal dignity.
All of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom represents a crescendo in the Jewish teaching of royal personhood. This teaching includes the assurance that Yahweh would make the anawim (those without a voice) a royal people.
But with the dignity of all persons—who are all royal persons—comes responsibility: The responsibility for justice-making and preserving creation. On the part of the poor, this means being actively involved in asserting one’s dignity and therefore one’s rights, and of letting go of internalized oppression created by negative self-images that others may have handed on. On the part of those who are comfortable, this means letting go of privilege and siding with the afflicted. This challenge of Jesus is put forth in many parts of the gospels.
Adapted from: Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 98-100
Helen Kenick, “Toward a Biblical Basis for Creation Theology,” in Matthew Fox, Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes, 27-75.
Banner image: Detail from “15ª Estación: El paño de cuaresma latinoamericano: Un nuevo cielo y una nueva tierra” in the el Via Crucis Latinoamericano series by Argentine activist, community organizer, art painter, writer, sculptor, and 1980 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. A full description of the series, and this painting, may be found here.
Queries for Contemplation
In prayerful meditation, sit with the following questions: what are the insights that they open within you?
- Have you had issues with “self-esteem”? How does knowing you are of “royal personhood” assist your healing?
- How is your nobility or royal personhood inspiring you to contribute to the struggles for eco, gender, racial, economic justice today?
Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality
In this book Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology). Here Fox lays out the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.