Kingdom consideration… pendulum effect

Whenever we put legs on biblical doctrine, look out for the pendulum effect.  The pendulum is what it is – that thing which swings with equal weight in both directions.

I have had some conversations this weekend flowing from what I mentioned in my first post and the email that I sent out TELLING/MANDATING/HOPING I’d get some takers to read my blaaahg…  it was the idea that when Jesus taught on prayer (Matthew 6:9-10), he taught his disciples (Sermon on the Mount) to pray not so much for the kindgom of heaven to be in heaven, but for the kingdom of heaven to be manifest on earth.  Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  When?  Now. Where?  Wherever on earth we presently are as agents of his kingdom.

Trying to apply the grace-renewal butt-kicking that I received at the GCA churchplanting conference, yesterday in a men’s group I asked a ‘conference question’ that had earlier been turned on me: If you were to wake up on Monday morning and the Kingdom of God had come to earth in fullness (as we are to pray for)… how would our places of work and culture and communities look different? 

I imagined a discussion of hope and prayer and longing for the kingdom of grace and mercy to eradicate injustice… for the kingdom of reconciliation to bring marriages back together… for the kingdom of truth to conquer the uncertainty of relativism… for the kingdom of tearlessness to replace tears and mourning and brokenness… for the kingdom of the KING of glory to be visible rather than the world of idolatry where we watch our friends and neighbors and coworkers (and selves) bow and then crumble before the idols of success/materialism, etc…  IN SHORT, I imagined a non-technical, most certainly non-eschatological, vision session where we began to long for Jesus’ prayer to be answered THIS week right here in the Lehigh Valley. 

Then the pendulum started swinging.  First in the direction of heaven being only in heaven and totally separate from this world.  Then in the direction of how WE must be the DOERS of the kingdom if we would ever see it here (not untrue about our role as ambassadors, but certainly not the same as longing for GOD to do something by his SPIRIT way bigger than your and my DOING of his kindgom in our neighborhoods/workplaces/etc.).  Then there was the whole eschatology bit… NOT GOING TO GO THERE.

Then I watched what happens when the pendulum swings IN textual gospel-community.  Through gospel conversation we finally began to talk about that divorced coworker – what would his life be if he experienced the fullness of the kingdom of Christ HERE and NOW?  He would be reconciled to his wife through forgiveness ground in Christ.  And so on and so on and so on… ’till we were longing for the kingdom to be on earth – in our very present places of existence.  It was finally a time of corporate non-technical but BIG theology dreaming!  The weed started to tumble till (I hope) we were able to say with a clearer vision: Come Lord Jesus come… bring heaven to earth through your gospel of redemption.

SO all that to say this: Why IS it so unnatural to long for heaven on earth?  Maybe its because we have been thinking the wrong thing while praying the Lord’s prayer.  It is NOT: Thy kingdom come in heaven (in the future when all who are in Christ will be there) as it is in heaven (now).  Rather it IS: Thy Kingdom come on earth (now) as it is in heaven (now).  Come Lord Jesus come.

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5 thoughts on “Kingdom consideration… pendulum effect

  1. Sarah B says:

    Well, Jim, you seemed to think that it was a greater indication that people actually read your blog if they left comments, even though it tells you how many people hit your page a day. So, in the interest of full disclosure, here is my comment: I read your blog today. And laughed out loud in a room full of auditors when you said that you weren’t even going to go there.

    I’m suprised you didn’t make “Bringing Heaven Down to Earth” required reading.

    I think that another reason that it is so unnatural to long for heaven on earth is that we are so “good” at the being contented (content?) bit. And I don’t say that sarcastically. I consider myself to be pretty content in the circle of my Prince’s arms, and I think that it is good. But when I slip from contentment to complacency, to indolence, to a pig headed insistence that things are just fine the way they are and my world doesn’t need to change, that’s when it becomes not good. So I guess my prayer is this: that I not lose one speck of the joyful, trusting abondon with which I live my life, but that in living in the here and now, I keep my eyes open to the reality of what the here and now actually is and the gospel possibilities of what the here and now can be.

  2. weakchristian says:

    Sarah, thanks for the comment… I mean for reading. Bringing Heaven Down to Earth is by Nathan Bierma (2005 P&R) for any takers. It’s a little creative but not outside of the realm of what it means to hope for and anticipate the kingdom on earth. (I have to like a book that speaks of a ‘redeemed Chicago’ as a help to imagining the urban heaven coming to earth.)

    Nice point too.. perhaps its not just that we think too much about the kingdom of heaven as future. Perhaps we like the kingdom of earth the way it is (when its been nice to us)… Well said.

  3. Rich says:

    Great to see you blogging! I’ll come here often!

  4. weakchristian says:

    Thanks Rich… hello to my missional minded friend in Kingsport. Oh, and I have no idea what I am doing.

  5. Rich says:

    Jim, to answer your question, I think, at least in my own context here in Kingsport (and you’ve been here) too many of us see our lives here on Earth as transitory and removed from eternity. It’s simply something we must endure so that one day we will receive our reward and cash that ticket to Heaven.

    Coming from an Evangelical background, I have watched the Gospel be boiled down to penal substitutionary atonement. That has made it ultra-individualistic. That is a huge part of the Gospel, but not the whole story. If it’s only about Me and Jesus, we are missing something.

    Jesus said, And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    By neglecting the “other” it’s extremely difficult to imagine heaven on earth and the Kingdom of God, much less be agents in such a Kingdom. And again, redemption of individuals has overshadowed the redemptive work that God is doing and wants to do, everywhere in creation and in real life situations.

    Also, our human minds do not do well with the tension of the “Here but not quite” idea of the Kingdom. There is nothing cut and dry about that. Trying to talking about this with a bunch of engineers(our church is full of them). 🙂

    I may have more thoughts, but just wanted to get that out there.

    So glad to be here conversing!

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