“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
– C. S. Lewis
I don’t know if it’s because I’m taking philosophy classes right now, meeting with someone who invites me to think along these lines, or if it’s because Jesus, by his Holy Spirit is leading down this path. Whichever it is, I wrote something a few days ago in response to a prompt and I want to share it here because I believe it is good. Not good like “Oh you’re such a great writer,” but like “This is good and right and the way I want to orient my life—and I want others to walk with me toward it.”
So we are going to look at what is possible in the Kingdom of God. We are going to look at a portion of Jesus’s sermon on the mount. It’s worth mentioning that the sermon on the mount is descriptive rather than prescriptive. In it, Jesus does not tell us what we should do, rather he shows us what is possible in the Kingdom of God. The sermon on the mount is like a sunrise which, as C. S. Lewis suggests, enables us to see everything around us with the mindset of Jesus.
In Matthew 6:9-13, in the middle of Jesus’s sermon on the mount, arguably his magnum opus (as my friend Brad calls it), Jesus instructs his disciples and the crowd around him how to pray. He does not offer them empty words and poetic verses, rather in the middle of a string of teachings on life in the Kingdom of God, Jesus offers them, and us by extension, a way to pray as if they were already in the Kingdom of God—because they were and just did not recognize it. In just a few sentences, Jesus empowers his disciples to live in and live out the will of God as it is done in Heaven—and it begins with a knowledge of the Father.
In order for the disciples to authentically say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (v. 10), they must first know their “Father, who art in heaven” (v. 9). In John 14:9, Jesus, in speaking to Peter, says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” (ESV). In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God,” (Col 1:15, ESV). Jesus has made it clear that we can know the Father in and through him. Once the disciples realize they can know God in the person of Jesus, they are then free to recognize the will of God as it is carried out in the person of Jesus.
The disciples cannot pray for the will of God to be done on earth if they do not understand how it is done in Heaven. In addition to the example of his entire life and ministry, Jesus gives them language for what that might look like starting in verse 9 and continuing in verses 11-13. The will of God is that God’s name be hallowed, which simply means to acknowledge God as holy and worthy of our praise. Jesus demonstrated this by learning Scripture, spending time in his “Father’s house” (Luke 2:49, ESV), praying early and often, getting away from the crowds to be with the Father.
In verse 11, Jesus points to God as their provider—”Give us this day our daily bread.” He teaches them to trust God by asking for enough to get them through the day. In the Kingdom of God, there is no need to store up treasures because God is a constant source of provision and can be trusted to provide exactly what we need.
In verse 12, Jesus teaches them that God offers forgiveness of sins and simultaneously reminds them that they are sinners in need of forgiveness. By acknowledging their own status before the Father, they are in a position to “forgive our (their) debtors” (v. 11). This is an important concept in the Kingdom of God because God is the source of forgiveness. In the Kingdom of God, when we are forgiven, out of gratitude for what God has done for us, we ought to forgive others. Jesus models this time and again as he dines with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. Restoration of right relationship between the Father and the sinner is central to the Kingdom of God.
Lastly, in verse 13, Jesus teaches them to ask the Father to lead them in the way of life and not death. He says, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” (v. 13). Jesus is acknowledging that though the Kingdom of God is near, it is not yet fully here. Evil is still all around, but they do not need to be slaves to it. Jesus is saying that they have the ability to walk toward the Father and not toward any temptation—the Father has the power, by the Father’s very presence, to lead them toward life and not death, toward goodness and not evil.
When we hallow the name of the Father and become intimately acquainted with the Father through Jesus, we are empowered to live in and walk in the will of God here on earth as it is in Heaven. Our life will be less stressful because we trust God will take care of us. We can live free from the weight of our sin because in the Kingdom of God, we are forgiven. We can also live free from the weight of bitterness and hate because by the power of God, we can forgive those who have sinned against us. We can also trust that any temptation which promises to give us what we know only God can give us is not from the Father. We can trust that God will lead us toward life and not death as we walk with the Father.
Jesus has given the disciples and us the very way to live life in the Kingdom of God with God as our Father. He has taught us by his life and words that God can be trusted, God provides, God forgives, God enables us to forgive others, and that walking with God is the way of goodness and life. This is the will of God as it is done in Heaven. If we want to live a kingdom life, a life that demonstrates to the world around us that the Kingdom of God is real and good, then we should start with learning how to hallow the name of the Father through the person of Jesus and the rest will follow.
I wonder what our individual and collective lives would be like if we were to adopt this kingdom mindset. I wonder how the world would respond if we were to unmute ourselves and live peculiar, counter-cultural lives by embracing the possibilities available in the Kingdom of God. I wonder what new opportunities we will become aware of when we turn our gaze toward the sunrise of the Gospel.