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18 October 2019

Thy kingdom come.

MATTHEW 6.10, LUKE 11.2.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told us to ask our Father ἐλθέτω βασιλεία σου/elthéto i vasileía su, “must come, the kingdom of yours.” The literal translation is a bit Yoda-like, which is why “Your kingdom come” is how the ESV put it, and of course we all know the Book of Common Prayer and KJV translation.

The arrival of God’s kingdom is the gospel. It’s not John 3.16, no matter how much we love that verse. Eternal life is part of it, but the more important thing is where we spend this eternal life, and John 3.16 says nothing about that. You know the verse; you know this already. It’s why when Christians interpret the verse for other people, we tend to explain “will have everlasting life in heaven, with Jesus.” But Jesus never said that: In his second coming, he’s coming to earth to take over. God’s kingdom’s gonna be here. We Christians have been laying the groundwork for it.

And doing a rotten job of it, but that stands to reason: Too many of us think the kingdom’s not here. We anticipate an otherworldly, cosmic heaven; we figure we leave this world behind to fall apart and be destroyed. The millennium isn’t part of our plans.

So why have we bothered to pray “Thy kingdom come”? Well, ’cause the words are there, so we recite them by rote, but never meditated on them any. We just presumed God’d make his kingdom come by blowing up the earth while we all watch safely from heaven, and that’s where his kingdom is. And since God’s gonna blow up the earth, why bother to care of it? This world is passing away, so it’s okay if we pollute and spoil it, ’cause God’ll make us another one.

But once we realize God’s kingdom is located here, on our planet; once we realize God’s kingdom is meant to fix everything that’s broken on our planet (’cause God’s in the business of fixing what’s broken); and once we realize the Holy Spirit’s been given to us so we can get started already on God’s plan to make all things new: It’s gonna radically transform our nihilistic attitudes towards our world. And towards the people on it, whose glimpses of the coming kingdom are gonna attract them to it far better than warnings of doom and gloom.

Praying for God’s sovereignty.

Part of praying that God’s kingdom arrive, is praying for Jesus to be our king.

Plenty of Christians utterly misdefine sovereignty, the idea of how God rules his creation. They think sovereignty’s about control: If God reigns over the universe, it must therefore mean he holds the reins on everything in it, and nothing happens unless God wants it to. Problem is, a lot of sin happens in the universe, and the idea God wants that sin to happen—even though he regularly, expressly states he certainly does not—makes him either paradoxical, insane, or a hypocrite. So it can’t be that God wields that level of control: God’s still sovereign, but obviously not everything obeys their sovereign. Certainly we humans don’t.

So part of “Thy kingdom come” is our desire that we humans do.

Christians like to state Jesus is king by merit: He created and saved us, so he has every right to our allegiance, obedience, and faith. Problem with that idea is… a lot of evil strongmen have used that argument to demand allegiance to them. If my city was ruled by a drug lord—if he were my father, for that matter, so he begat me and took care of me and saved my life a few times—and he demanded my loyalty and ordered me to go blow up his rivals, should I? Of course not. Jesus’s merit doesn’t stem from his might, but his goodness. He saved us, not because he’s mighty to save, but because he loves us. He’s the best and wisest being in the universe, so who better to rule over us?

When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we’re declaring our allegiance to Jesus, and our intent to follow his rule. When Jesus tells us to go or stay, we go or stay. When Jesus tells us to partake or abstain, we partake or abstain. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, love our enemies, and especially love one another, we don’t go digging for loopholes which permit us exceptions: “Well she’s not a neighbor, not technically an enemy, and she doesn’t act like a Christian… so f--- her.” No. Bad Christian. Follow your king.

Sometimes Christians describe this as a voluntary sovereignty: We follow Jesus because we choose to. He’s our king because we choose him as king. And that’s the wrong way to look at it. A kingdom isn’t a democracy; we don’t vote for kings; we didn’t elect Jesus. He’s king whether we follow him or not. If we refuse to follow him, he doesn’t stop being king; instead we’re not part of his kingdom. We’re outside.

And if Jesus is king of God’s kingdom, and God’s kingdom is meant to occupy the whole world, what’s outside the world? Well, it’s described as dark, hot, and stinky. We don’t wanna go there. We don’t want anyone else to go there either. Neither does Jesus. Go get those people and invite them into his kingdom! Show them how kind and compassionate our king is. He’s way better than anything else that might rule them.

Our part in growing God’s kingdom.

Like “Hallowed be thy name,” this prayer request doesn’t merely have God do all the work. We want him to bring his kingdom into the world… but this means we have to help him. Not fight him.

And Christians fight him all the time. Because we have our own ideas of what his kingdom might look like, and keep trying to implement that instead of God’s actual kingdom. We create megachuches with great big entertainment complexes ministry centers, where we can rock out to Christian pop songs worship together… but all our kingdom activity tends to be limited to those campuses on Sunday mornings. Does the rest of our community look any more Christian? Superficially so. But the blind, lame, lepers, deaf, and dead aren’t cured, and the poor aren’t evangelized. Mt 11.5, Lk 7.22 When Jesus walked through a town, he made a visible, profound impact in people’s lives. When Christians live in a town, the only change is a shiny new building at the city limits.

If we’ve not impacted our world like Jesus did, like Jesus can when his followers actually do as he taught us, we haven’t grown his kingdom. “Thy kingdom come” is just empty words, spouted by people who think it’s praise instead of a prayer request, or who don’t think about it at all. Let’s do better than that.

Prayer.

Kingdom.