We live in an interesting age. Perhaps there has never been a time or place in all of history in which the outward call and cause of justice has been so vocally defended. Regardless of your political orientation, whether you are liberal or conservative, anarchist, or libertarian, all agree that justice is to be sought and cultivated in our world. We live in an age of activism. Yesterday, more than 1000 people marched downtown seeking justice and equality for women. On Tuesday, people are boycotting Tim Horton’s over some franchises responses to the treatment of workers after minimum wage hikes.
When faced with injustice and human suffering, we often take one of two approaches. I was helped greatly in my understanding of this by a former missionary and aid worker to Africa, David Maranz, who wrote a book called “African Friends and Money Matters". Maranz described two general approaches to bringing about change.
Macro-solutions: Macro-solutions deal with systems and structures. They are concerned with efficiencies and ensuring that everyone has equal treatment. Maranz points out that the macro-solution approach has been the dominant approach of the democratic West; which he argues makes sense, for this approach assumes a degree of power in the voice of the people to initiate change and a level of stability in the government to execute change.
Micro-solutions: on the other hand, is the dominant approach of the non-western world. Micro-solutions approach the resolution of problems on an immediate and personal scale. Micro-solutions are not as concerned with efficiencies or fairness, but in meeting the direct and immediate needs of friend and neighbour.
For example: this is the difference between driving in a society in which everyone has agreed upon rules governing who should go first in an intersection and this.
While both approaches to changing the world have their strengths, ultimately fall short in bringing about justice.
Macro-solutions fall short in at least three ways. First, by seeking to enforce fairness from the top down - they fail to truly lead to transformational change. Second, there are always blindspots in the system and people who fall through the cracks. Third, and most important, they tend to replace one system of oppression or injustice with another.
Micro-solutions fall short in that they by definition are not universal. Secondly, they are self-seeking in a sense - they advantage the insiders. Maranz’ definition of micro-solution: “an action that gives a person a tiny, immediate advantage over a competition in a social acceptable way.” For example, the Chinese concept of guanxi - if you are part of my group I will work with you, but if you’re not, then too bad.
The problem with both of these approaches is that they fail to deal with the heart of the matter, that injustice if not something outside of us, but something inside of us. Injustice, inequality, and selfishness is a matter of the heart. The Russian writer Tolstoy understood that change must begin within the human heart.
“There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one: the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”
The world needs a robust understanding injustice and suffering, otherwise we will inevitably prescribe the wrong cure for our pain. I remember that before I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, the doctor initially though that I needed to go on a high fibre diet. So I was eating tons of breads and grains, in other words, tons of gluten! It was making my condition worse. Jesus understood how discouraging this world could be, and in teaching us to pray did not evade or avoid this human reality, but taught us to pray in a way that faces injustice and suffering head on. This is of course the second petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom Come.”
The Prayer “Your Kingdom Come” Is a Longing For a Greater Kingdom
The impulse to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” is rooted deep in our soul and in our awareness that although there is some beauty and some goodness in this world, we also observe and sense a corruption, a disorder, an evil surrounding us and within us that seeks an answer. Have you ever walked into a room and sensed that something is not right? Either there is a unseen danger or even you become aware of a presence of a person or being who shouldn’t be there?
Well, it is nearly a universal human reality, that at some point in life we are confronted with the fact that this world is off. Some of us hit that point through personal suffering - why is this happening to me? Some of us get there when confronted with some systemic injustice - this is not fair, and you realize that not every one cares that its not fair, and you realize that other people are benefitting from the unjust system.
The Christian understands that injustice and human suffering are part and parcel of living in this world of sin. The Westminster Confession teaches regarding this prayer “acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan”. So suffering and injustice are not an illusion, not simply a matter of ignorance, but an outcome of living in a world that has rebelled against the kingdom of God. And so “Your Kingdom Come” is a cry for God’s solution to our problem.
The Prayer “Thy Kingdom Come” Is to Submit to God’s Sovereign Rule
The question is, how do you change the heart? First, I would truly need to acknowledge the injustice in myself; to recognize my own selfishness, ignorance, and blinding pride that dwells within me. This is something that the Bible speaks to in real ways. Christianity does not see sin and suffering as illusionary. It does not try to naively downplay our sinful and selfish tendencies as weakness - no it calls out to the core of our being that our most dangerous adversary is inward; we are most dangerous to ourselves because we will continually deceive our own selves. The entire record of scripture records the selfishness of man, which, if we are honest with ourselves is echoed both in the annuls of secular history and within our own lives as well. The interior personal level is important because when we look outward see the “ought” of the world, while denying the “ought” within us, we are nothing but judgemental hypocrites.
Even if you are not a Christian today, I would challenge you to consider the good of the Christian gospel that calls out to each person to look inward and confront the evil within themselves. History has demonstrated that when we lose that introspection as a society, genocides and suffering soon follows.
Second, we need to be transformed by the power of God. We all know of the frustration of knowing the good we desire, but not finding in ourselves the resources to carry it out. This is where Christianity sets itself apart from other creeds. In Christianity, the power to change comes from God, not from ourselves. Into our world, God came near in the person of Jesus Christ. the Kingdom of God has come near in Christ. God’s rule of righteousness, justice and peace has been brought near to us in the person of Jesus. This is why the first preaching of the gospel, the words of John the baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, was spoken in this way, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The grammar used in that phrase suggests that God’s rule has definitively drawn near to us in a way that we now live in a new reality. And how has God’s rule drawn near to us? In the person of Jesus Christ. As Jesus loved and lived and ministered, he walked in the rule and authority of the kingdom of God. He demonstrated authority over the world, flesh and devil, pointing to his authority over supernatural forces as evidence of His divine embodiment of the Kingdom of God. Matt. 12:28: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Jesus showed us a life lived by divine power. Jesus called us to follow him, yet pointed us to the power from God as the power for living. In his death, burial and public resurrection, Jesus revealed to us that God, in His love, was not content to leave us wallowing in our sins (even our rejection of Himself!) but is offering forgiveness of sins and new life in Jesus Christ, to all who would turn to him.
Jesus spoke of the kingdom as present. He said, Luke 17:21, "Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." What that means is that when Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come” the kingdom was literally right in front of them, praying alongside them. This means that to pray, “Your Kingdom come” is very similar to the prayer we looked at last week, “Hallowed be your name” because it also is a prayer that points us to Jesus, yet this time specifically to his sovereign rule, and even more specifically, in this prayer we pray that before the rest of the world shapes up and falls in line with God’s rule, our own hearts would bow before his justice. I appreciate how john MacArthur explains this point:
If salvation is anything, it is the recognition that the sinner bows the knee to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It is the recognition that Jesus Christ is the King over my life, that God's program replaces my program, that my sovereign Redeemer is the ruler of my life. And His rule eclipses my sovereignty and my own self-will so that what is true of salvation is that the believer concerns himself from then on with the kingdom of God. And so he prays or she prays, "Thy kingdom come." There's nothing here about my agenda. There's nothing here about my ambition, my dreams, my goals, my preoccupation. All of those are placed, as it were, on the altar in submission to the lordship of Christ. It's fine to have those goals and those dreams and desires and ambitions and some direction in your life, but all of it is put on the altar as a sacrifice to Christ who can do with it as He pleases. That's the heart of the sinner at the point of salvation. He is sick of himself, he is tired of running his own life, he wants no longer either the effort or the effect of his independence and desires the forgiveness of sin, the hope of eternal life, and for that he will gladly submit to the sovereignty of Christ. God's purposes take over. God's will takes over. God's desire takes over.
Once the individual’s sinners heart is transformed and set into submission to Jesus and His Kingdom values, now we are ready to actually see how Jesus works his kingdom through micro and macro solutions.
The first principle is the Neighbour Principle This is a micro-solution of being in proximity to those who are needy and oppressed. Notice how Jesus grounds the God’s kingdom values in relationship. Teaches teaches us the neighbour principle in the parable of the good samaritan. But he really gives a good teaching in Luke 6:27-28
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
On Friday morning i went to a conference called “Jesus and Justice: Working Together to Build God's Just Kingdom” The keynote speaker spoke of the concept of proximity: that “to live lives of justice requires that we live lives in proximity to the downtrodden and oppressed” This is hard. He told the story of when he was a church planter he was getting to know his neighbours. And one woman told him that her landlord would knock $100 off her monthly rent if she agreed to sleep with him. Now this woman was on social assistance, single mom, three kids. $100 would help out a lot. He told us that in that moment he became an advocate. He challenged us "Do we like the idea of changing the world, or do we really want to do the work required - to be proximate?” Getting to know your neighbours, is harder than just staying in our bubble, but this is what we are called to do.
The Second Principle is the Leaven Principle.
Matt. 13:31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
Matt. 13:33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
This is the macro-solution: Multi-national Local Centres of Transformation: the CHURCH! Subversive centres of love and good works seeking justice, righteousness and peace on every corner of every neighbourhood on the planet. This is where the mission of the church matters. Does this work? Recently I came across a couple of amazing articles.
In the 2012, American Political Science Review by a Robert Woodbury in which he found that
“Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.” Or as Christianity today summarized his findings:
“In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary.”
This research confirmed an observation by a man named Matthew Parrish - raised in Africa, now writing for the Times of London. Parrish’s article was entitled “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God”
“But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”
The Prayer “Your Kingdom Come” Is a Confession of Human Limitation
Again, please be clear that I am not saying that we do not work toward a more just world; in fact, over and over again in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, we are commanded to act out our faith though seeking justice.
And so we do not dare minimize our striving for justice in our own day, even as we pray, “Your Kingdom Come.” As one pastor put it, “We are a Jesus movement and so we value justice, peace and compassion”.
However, to pray, “Your kingdom come,” is a confession or an admission of human limitation. That for all of our desire for a world of righteousness, justice and peace, and for all of our work in the world toward a more just society, ultimately all human endeavours will fall short in ending suffering, eradicating injustice, and bringing in peace. We eagerly await a saviour from heaven, to establish God’s rule on earth in a material way. This is the work of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus, when he returns. This is the Christmas promise:
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
This is the hope that we end every service on. Maranatha: Come Lord Quickly!