“Our Father who is in heaven, let your name be made holy; may your kingdom come, [that is], your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth….” Matthew 6:9b-10 Author’s translation
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the traditional language is “…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” But we tend to take a big breath between “done” and “in,” and I think that misses the point Jesus is making. It suggests that in a broad and general way we would like to see God’s will being done, and that it would be nice if it could be done on earth (but, of course that is only a fond wish having nothing to do with the real Gospel). Wrong! Why do I say that?
Remember the Gospel message that Jesus preached (Matt 4:17) and that he directed his disciples to preach (Luke 10:9): “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Now what was he talking about? What is the kingdom of God? It is a place where God, the Sovereign, has his way in everything. Is that the Good News, the Gospel? Surely not! Surely the Good News is that I don’t have to worry about sinning anymore. Jesus has died for my sins and they’re all covered. To be sure, the prayer later says, “Forgive us our trespasses/debts” but it makes that forgiveness totally conditional on whether we forgive others (acting like God!). It is not a blanket pass to heaven.
So what are we praying when we pray the Lord’s Prayer? The Greek says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, as in heaven so also on earth.” Why did Jesus come? He came so that God’s will might be as instantly, as thoroughly, as completely done on earth as it is in heaven. He did not come so that you and I could do our will and not have to suffer the consequences, which is what all too much Christian preaching suggests today. Jesus came to make it possible through his death on the Cross and the resulting Gift of the Spirit for you and me to be able to do God’s will as thoroughly, as completely, and as delightedly as any angel in heaven. Christianity will never transform the earth until you and I get into the kingdom, not in heaven, but here! And we can! Day after day, we can do God’s will. We can please our Father and, as his children, look just like him. Good News!