As we look around us at the world, we see so much suffering, poverty, disease and violence. Our leaders, politicians and governments have made such a mess of things. Selfishness, greed and corruption seem to rule everything. We threaten our very existence with nuclear weapons and contempt for our environment. Billions live in poverty and millions of children die every day of preventable diseases.
And yet we see so much beauty all around us. Our natural world is full of beauty and wonders. People have created fantastic music, art and literature. Our scientists are eliminating some diseases such as leprosy, polio and smallpox and there is hope for cures from the killer diseases: malaria, aids and cancer.
When God created us, in his image, he also gave us free wills. But mankind has gone its own way and refused to acknowledge the plan God had for us. But God’s plan has always been one of restoration and reconciliation. Jesus came to institute a new kingdom which would radically change the world we live in. In the Gospels, this is known as the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven
We are all familiar with the words from the Lord’s Prayer that says:
Your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
These words, some of the most powerful words ever spoken, affect the world – the whole of human history, past, present and future. But the Kingdom of God as proclaimed in Matthew’s gospel has often been a mystery.
- Does the word ‘kingdom’ mean anything in countries without a king and no concept of a kingdom?
- Is God’s kingdom in heaven, on earth, or both?
- If God’s kingdom is on earth, what about all the evil in the world?
- Does the kingdom of God mean the same as ‘the church’? Does it include the church, or is it much larger?
- Does the kingdom of God apply to now, or just to some future era?
- When we pray, ‘your kingdom come’, are we asking God to send his kingdom by his action alone? Are we expecting his kingdom to come because we pray those words? Or should we be doing something to help bring about God’s kingdom in this world through our actions as well as words?
I believe that God has already set the mechanics in process for his Kingdom to be here on earth. When God sent his son Jesus to the world, he did all that was necessary for God’s kingdom to be here on earth – now, in reality. But there is still much evil in the world. The Kingdom of God is yet not fully complete on this earth. God has done his part: we must do our part.
Words and Actions
Jesus encouraged us to pray those words, ‘your kingdom come’. But our prayers should be backed up by our actions. How we go about our daily lives and live in this world can either help bring about God’s kingdom or be an obstacle. It is not a matter of ‘words’ or ‘actions’ but ‘words and actions’.
On earth as it is in heaven
The next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. There should be no surprise to us that God’s will is done in heaven. We expect heaven to be the place where God rules and everything there is subject to his will. But what does it mean for God’s will to be done on earth?
- Will God ever force his will to be done on earth?
- What about our ‘free will’ – the ability to choose to do good or to do evil?
- In praying ‘your will be done’ are we expecting God to impose his will on mankind?
- What does it mean to choose to do what God wants rather than to choose what we would naturally want?
Choices we make and their results
In giving up free will and choosing to do what God wants us to do, we are co-operating with God and helping to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth. We make thousands of decisions every day. Some of these decisions are made consciously, some unconsciously and some decisions are quite random. Any one of those decisions could have life-changing results.
In deciding to cross a road between two cars rather than walk on to a pedestrian crossing, we could effect our own life expectancy! In deciding to walk a particular route to the shops we might, apparently randomly, meet somebody and have an effect on their life that could be life-changing to them and perhaps affect many other people.
We have no way of calculating the short-term or long-term effects of our decisions. Chaos theory suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America could cause a typhoon in Japan! We are not just affected by our own decisions, but by the decisions other people make, and even random events in nature.
Some decisions we make may be totally immaterial and irrelevant, but other apparently tiny decisions could have large and unpredictable results. Even well-meaning actions we choose to make could possibly have devastating results.
Your will be done
How then can we live in a world where every little thing may have an unpredictable result? The answer is in praying, ‘your will be done’.
- We are asking God to guide our everyday choices so that we are in fact doing God’s will.
- We are asking God to help other people make the correct choices so that knowingly or unknowingly they are doing God’s will.
- We are asking God to control apparently random events in nature so that they co-operate with God’s will also.
God will not force his will to be done on earth and override our free will. But nevertheless, it’s God’s will is being done on earth which will bring about the kingdom of heaven, or God’s rule here on earth.
It all depends on our idea of God
How do we picture a world in which God rules and his will is being done on earth. It all depends on our idea of God. For many people God is scary. They think of him as being judgmental. He is to be feared and to people who are afraid of God the idea of God ruling on this world is frightening and terrifying.
But I believe that God is good and he wants what is good for his creation. His love reaches out to the human race as a whole but also to individual people. So there is nothing to be afraid of in wanting God’s will to be done here on earth.
God’s kingdom here on earth
What would it mean if God’s kingdom came here on earth in its completeness and we all chose to make decisions which aligned with his will?
- Wars between nations would stop.
- People would care as much about other people as they care about themselves.
- Poverty caused by bad economics would be abolished.
- Poverty caused by injustice would be abolished.
- Children would not die at birth or in their early years.
- Diseases would be eliminated.
- Racism would be abolished resulting in everybody respecting the dignity of different ethnic groups, languages and cultures.
- Every person in the world would acknowledge that the situation had only come about because of a God who truly loved them.
This sounds like a sort of Utopia, but Utopia represents an ideal that can never be achieved. But I don’t believe that my dream of a world in which God rules is idealistic. It is God’s dream too, and it can be and will be achieved.
Moving towards this dream!
- Extreme poverty (people living on less than $1.25 a day) has halved in the last 30 years, from 52% of the world’s population to 26%!
- Institutional Slavery has been abolished. (Though it still exists illegally.)
- We used to say that 40,000 children die every day through preventable diseases, but the figure is now more like 20,000 a day – which is totally unacceptable but at least an improvement.
- Diseases like smallpox has been eliminated and polio (which has caused so much distress) has almost been eliminated.
- Racism still exists but is largely not tolerated in today’s world.
- The kingdom of God is in fact slowly increasing in this world.
But what can we do, as individuals, to bring about a world such as I have described. In earlier ages it was only the Emperors or dictators or rulers who could really make major decisions that would affect us all. Some of these rulers would have been benevolent but others like Nero, Gangis Khan, Hitler and Pol Pot were evil.
But we live at a time when individuals have unprecedented power. It is the age of Facebook and Twitter: the age of the mobile phone and e-mail. No longer can we claim to have no effect. Politicians will not change the world, but when people’s attitudes change and they no longer tolerate such an unequal and unjust world, politicians have to take notice.
- If we see an injustice, speak out against it. Tell other people about it. Use e-mails, texts, mobile phone calls and Facebook to tell other people.
- No longer tolerate a world in which billions live in extreme poverty. Give your money, your time and resources. But above all make your views known to others. We are all connected and our influence can affect the attitudes of others, more than we think is possible. Extreme poverty will not be eliminated until enough people say, “we can no longer tolerate this situation”.
- Beware of racism – it is very subtle. If we were aware of a person in our own country who was refused simple medicine by their doctor, there would be an outcry and we would feel hot under the collar about it. But this situation is repeated countless times in other countries. Doctors in Africa often do not have the simple medicine that could save a human life. In becoming angry about a situation in our country but yet tolerating the same situation in another country we are saying in effect that ‘they’ are less important than a fellow countrymen and we are in danger of racism.
- In praying, ‘your will be done’, let us pray with our words, and also in our actions.
The growth of the kingdom of heaven
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)
The kingdom of heaven is like a tiny seed, planted in the ground, which grows and grows into a mighty tree. We can’t see it grow, but every day the tree becomes a little bit taller and a little bit stronger.
Every time we choose to love our enemies, it grows taller. Every time we are wronged and refuse to seek revenge the trunk gets stronger. Every time we don’t call those who disagree with us “fools” the roots grow deeper. Every time we give to those in need the branches reach out wider. Every time we say no to fear and worry the leaves grow thicker.
The world system is based on selfishness, fear, greed and violence. God’s rule is based on love, faith, justice and peace. But in the end love must win. Fear must give way to faith, justice triumph over greed and war be replaced by peace.
God’s rule doesn’t suddenly mushroom into existence – it steadily grows, like that tree, till it covers the whole earth.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)
A hardwired dream
The Kingdom of God is not limited just to the church, the Christian religion or to Christians. I am absolutely amazed how many people have a real desire in their hearts to see a better world. It is a dream hardwired into us by a Creator who made us ‘in his image’. Whether they acknowledge God or not, people living in this world can, consciously or unconsciously, do his will and increase his rule in the earth.
But in acknowledging God’s work in our own lives we have a unique possibility to co-operate with Him. So let us pray the words, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” but let us make sure that our actions and the choices we make are in line with that goal.