07 Apr The Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come
With the second line of The Lord’s Prayer, we arrive at the heart of the matter: God’s kingdom. To understand how Jesus views his Father’s kingdom, we first need to do something that will seem strange. We must take all discussion of “Heaven” off the table. There will be no talk about heaven with a capital “H,” the place we think we’ll go to (if lucky) when we die. We’re just not going to go there.
Why? Because as soon as we see heaven and hell as proper names, as specific places where rewards and punishments are meted out, the acceptance of Christ and all associated good works become petty acts of bribery. The afterlife must remain unknown, because the quality and strength of our faith, as well as the morality of our actions, depends on the mystery. For this reason, Jesus calls us to attend not to the dead1 (who are beyond our reach) but to those who are living and can feel our touch.
It is by nurturing the living God in ourselves and others that we make the Father’s kingdom come.2 But what exactly is this kingdom if it is not what we normally take for heaven? The Gospels provide us with plenty of clues. But also many false leads. We need to be careful when applying our winnowing fans.
We should remember that the tribes who handed down the story of Jesus believed that a final day of judgment would occur during their own generation.3 That is why the apostles are so despondent after Jesus’s death. They thought he was going to physically deliver Jerusalem from Roman authority, and then rule over an earthly kingdom.4 But Jesus had something different in mind. He wanted his disciples to view the Lord not as a King on High but as a secret spirit living in us all,5 with the power to reveal a kingdom already here.6
Therefore, we must sidestep any reference to the end–time theologies7 that were prevalent during Jesus’s day, and which today have made best–selling authors of those who exploit fears of being “left behind”. After all, how is it that we will find ourselves raptured into the sky or see Jesus surfing down from the clouds,8 when God’s kingdom, we are told, cannot be witnessed by the eye because it lives within us?9 The answer is, we can’t, and won’t. The gates of heaven are unlocked when our hearts and minds work in unison to discover God’s Word,10 which is alive all around us.
That is why Jesus insists on talking in parables when describing the kingdom: because parables make us think. They don’t dictate hard and fast answers. Jesus, like the river guide, leads us upstream to where the fish are, but insists that we make our own catch. The problem though is that we often feel stranded upriver without a pole!
Heaven is for the Childlike
But Jesus doesn’t actually leave us empty–handed. He instructs us to fish the kingdom as a child would, for heaven belongs to the childlike.11 Unfortunately, we adults often take a pretty dim view of childhood. Like the Apostle Paul, we associate those early years with “childishness,” and see children as clay to be molded rather than the hands which can remold us.
What makes children so special? Quite simply, their sense of wonder. As we grow older most of us lose our ability to be amazed by God’s creation. Our familiarity with the world and our place within it breeds not contempt but boredom. The scientific revolution has given birth to incredible inventions, but it has also increased our ennui. We think we understand the way plants and animals grow, the way the sun rises and sets, the way people talk and communicate.
We totally forget how extraordinary it is that any of this exists at all!12 That beautiful and complicated organisms emerge from tiny seeds; that the earth is speeding 67,000 miles per hour around an immense ball of fire; that the human mind has generated thousands of complex languages (when just grunts would have made do); is just mind blowing when looked at from the right perspective: the perspective of a child.
Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as both a mustard seed13 and a hidden treasure,14 because when we look at the world with wonder (recognizing the abundant potential that exists within ourselves and all of God’s creation) we cannot help but see hidden treasures under every stone—endless fields of possibilities waiting to bloom if we have but the patience to nurture them. And that’s the rub. Our patience today is close to nil. Technology has quickened our wants at a dizzying speed. And in turn, we’ve turned back into children, but not the kingdom key-carrying kind, rather spoiled sons and daughters demanding instant gratification.
Patient Christians take a light and thoughtful approach to the world, especially “sinful” behavior, which means fighting against our usual gut instincts. When we see something bad, we usually want to rip it up by the roots. Yet by doing so, we unwittingly tear up all the good that might be growing around the bad. Jesus teaches us this in the parable of the wheat and the tares.15
Over the centuries, we rarely have had a soft touch when dealing with spiritual matters—preferring instead to flog and condemn those deemed as evil–doers.16 But if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven, and live a life more abundant, we must tend to God’s creation faithfully and give it plenty of time to grow—realizing that what we think is bad today often leads to good, and vice versa.
Read Chapter 4: Thy Will Be Done (Understanding God’s Will)
You have been reading Chapter 3 from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Testament Gospels). This faith book on life and the power of The Lord’s Prayer is available for purchase in trade paperback below.
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- “Leave the dead to bury their dead; but go yourself and carry far and wide the gospel of the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:60 [↩]
- By that in the good ground are meant those who, with a good and honest heart, keep the message and patiently bring forth its fruit. – Luke 8:15 [↩]
- I tell you that even the present generation will not pass away, until all these things have taken place. – Mark 13:30 [↩]
- But we were hoping that he was the destined deliverer of Israel. – Luke 24:21 [↩]
- I tell you, as often as you did it to one these my brothers and sisters, however lowly, you did it to me. – Matthew 25:40 [↩]
- If it is by the help of the spirit of God that I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God must already be upon you. – Matthew 12:28 [↩]
- Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the close of the age. – Matthew 24:3 [↩]
- Then will be seen the ‘Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. – Mark 13:26 [↩]
- The kingdom of God does not come in a way that admits of observation, 21 Nor will people say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you! – Luke 17:20-21 [↩]
- In the Beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God; 3 Through him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from him. – John 1:1-4 [↩]
- Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for it is to the childlike that the kingdom of heaven belongs. – Matthew 19:14 [↩]
- For a time is coming upon you when your enemies will surround you with earthworks, and encircle you, and hem you in on all sides; 44 They will trample you down and your children within you. – Luke 19:43-44 [↩]
- “To what can we liken the kingdom of God? 31 By what can we illustrate it? Perhaps by the growth of a mustard-seed. This seed, when sown in the ground, though it is smaller than all other seeds, 32 Yet, when sown, shoots up, and becomes larger than any other herb, and puts out great branches, so that even ‘the wild birds can roost in its shelter. – Mark 4:30–33 [↩]
- The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which people find and hide again, and then, in their delight, go and sell everything that they have, and buy that field. – Matthew 13:44 [↩]
- The farmer said “I fear that while you are gathering the tares you should root up the wheat as well. 30 Let both grow side by side till harvest; and then I shall say to the reapers, gather the tares together first, and tie them in bundles for burning; but bring all the wheat into my barn.” – Matthew 13:29-30 [↩]
- This woman was taken in the very act of adultery. 5 Now, the law of Moses says that we must stone her. – John 8:4-5 [↩]