Preface: I almost completed this post the night bin Laden was killed. It was the news of his death which pulled me away from writing, and I have been unable to finish the last paragraph until tonight. It might seem that portions of this post were written in response to the bin Laden affair. This was not the case. It is difficult to know how to understand bin Laden. Was he simply a misguided but genuine person, someone sincerely resolute in defending the honor of God’s law as he understood it? Or was he a disingenuous man, someone masquerading as a devoted Muslim in order to procure power and fame for himself? Though bin Laden’s character is probably too difficult for me to assess, I would not be surprised if either option were true. Jesus promised that two types of people would wrongly contend for God’s will. Some would mistakenly become unjust, sincerely believing that they were rendering service to God. Others would secretly manipulate others, pretending all the while to be men of true piety. There is a prudent place to debate bin Laden’s legacy, as well as the response of Obama and Bush. This post, I think, is not the proper place for me to do that. Nevertheless, I will not ammend what I have written in light of bin Laden’s death, even as I believe that all Christians, no matter where we fall in our understanding of pacificism or just war, are to resist all our impulses for vengance and retaliation, difficult though that is for all of us. We should not be surprised, as well, if events like the bin Laden affair Balkanize Christians into many viewpoints. Nor should we be surprised if Christians from different nations view this situation in opposite ways. We are a fallible people, and we should not be offended when others esteem our opinions as misguided. But our behavior should always lead us to hold a clear conscience before God, knowing that he will test all our thoughts on the Day of Christ Jesus.
Were we sufficient unto ourselves, we would have no need of God’s kingdom. But since our only freedom is to be constrained by the Law of our Father, we fully entrust our lives into his Lordship, praying that his kingdom would come.
Though all creation is under God’s kingship, the church does not always experience the benefits of his rule. For we live in the midst of many difficulties. The Lord has promised us that the Kingdom of Heaven – the hope towards which we direct our lives – is only present with us in ways difficult to perceive, like a mustard seed, or a treasure buried in a field. Because of this, we are to expect no palaces of luxury in this life. We are rather to brace ourselves for pilgrimage, knowing that we must strike the tent to embark upon a treacherous journey. Men will despise us, friends will forsake us, and people will take advantage of our kindness. Indeed, there will even be times when our only desire will be to find some small plot of land whereupon we can simply live in peace. Yet it should surprise us little when no peace is found.
God’s dear children, therefore, in praying for his kingdom to come, are requesting that God would subdue this unbridled world, turning it away from all its rancor and malice, and cultivating peace in its soil. We live in a world which is unreasonable, where the innocent are often abused, and where the righteous often suffer the most. Many in this world recognize the problem, but few offer more than words. If we were to assess mankind on words alone, then surely we live in a kingdom of mercy. But the reality of the matter is the opposite. We live in a world where mercy, though sometimes apparent, is the exception to the rule. For this reason, God’s people are to pray always that a different kingdom would rain down upon our world, namely that Kingdom which teaches us to love our enemies, to forgive where we have been wronged, and to bless those who threaten us.
Yet let us never advocate for God’s Kingdom of peace while tyranny reigns in our hearts. Before we can aspire to some lofty mission of mercy, we must learn to bear patiently with our families and friends, our neighbors and superiors. It would be the height of hypocrisy for us, in trumpeting social causes, to practice unkindness to those around us, harboring unforgiveness in our hearts and secretly desiring our neighbor’s downfall. Let us learn, then, that our first priority is to be good servants wherever God has placed us, knowing that our sincere hopes for advancing God’s Kingdom will be impossible while anarchy characterizes our ways. We must cultivate gentle spirits, never retaliating when we are maligned, and trusting that God will judge between us and our accusers. Let us only be concerned in submitting our hearts to him.
For this reason, we must give ourselves to constant prayer. Our journey requires all our vigor, and God daily stretches us so that we would rely on his providence. Though we are stricken with many bruises in this life, the Lord of Hosts is our Captain, and he leads us always with his scepter. Let us, therefore, not be afraid to follow him wherever he leads us, even though he might call us into much confusion and danger. We are never to doubt, in any situation, that the Lord is nigh unto us. Though we are surrounded on all sides by the chaos of this world, the Holy Spirit makes our hearts ascend into that heavenly Kingdom prepared for us, the Kingdom where Christ’s nourishes us with his assistance. Because of this, we are to expect always, as we lift our prayers to God, that he will grant us all our necessities, enabling us to endure the post wherein he has assigned us.
Let us, therefore, place all our hope in God, submitting our hearts to his kingship. For all our help is contained in this fact: that God is reigning in us. Cleaving then to his commandments, we are able to endure all our trials with patience. And realizing that our lives have sometimes been characterized by disobedience, we are to take shelter in the kingdom of mercy which God has prepared for us, even as it is the Father’s good pleasure to welcome us back into his household. For this reason, let us present our Father with all our wreckage, requesting that he would be pleased to make our rubble into the pillars of his kingdom.