The Kingdom of God on Earth
by Casey O’Brien Machado
The beautiful thing about being an advocate for Social Justice is that while our focus is on this world, our hope is in another. The bringing about of Social Justice is “The Kingdom of God on earth”. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we ask “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Yet we rarely take the time to think about this Kingdom for which we are praying, and what that actually would look like on earth.
In Isaiah 65, we read of “a new heaven and a new earth” (v. 17) – that is, God’s Kingdom. We read: “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:… I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
20 “Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
23 They will not labour in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
This is the Kingdom which we are waiting, working and hoping for. This is the Kingdom which we are trying to bring to earth – the Kingdom of God. A kingdom where babies will not die (v. 20), where cancer does not take those we love (v. 20), where houses are not destroyed by fire or flood (v. 21), where drought does not destroy the crops of hard-working farmers (v. 21), where workers are treated fairly (v. 22) and where generational poverty is non-existent (v. 23). The scriptures are full of descriptions of this incredible Kingdom which we are going to experience, if we will only keep our eyes on Him.
While we as humans do not have the power to eliminate pain, hurt and death, we as God’s people on earth have been given the mandate to show the people of this world a snapshot of the Kingdom to come. As Michael Frost puts it, “The purpose of our lives is to be like a trailer of an upcoming feature”. In the same way that a movie trailer gives a glimpse of what the film in its entirety will be like, we are to give a glimpse of what the world to come will be like. Our lives are to show a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. In doing so, we are to ease the pain and hurt and to comfort in death in preparation for the coming of that Kingdom.
The problem is that in a world that is so often dark and damaging, it is so easy to become discouraged. When working for Social Justice and in serving others, the problems of those we serve can become so all-encompassing and heavy that we struggle to carry them. In addition, we are not immune to the problems of this world ourselves. Sometimes, Christians cause more damage to people’s perception of God than they do good. Sometimes, the Church is not what it should be. Sometimes, those we love hurt us, and things and people are not what we thought they were. Sometimes, for a whole array of reasons, the very fabric of what we believed is ripped out from under us. Sometimes, the world simply seems too dark to handle. How then do we respond?
Our only answer is to keep our eyes on the Kingdom to come and on the Ruler of that Kingdom. In God alone do we find the hope of a world that is so different to the one in which we live. It is this hope to which we must hold when our efforts seem useless and our hearts are hurting. It is Christ’s love which compels us – not the love of recognition from others, or even a love of The Salvation Army. We do not serve others to look good or to further the brand of an organization– we serve others because that is what God called us to do, and it is the only reasonable response to the grace which we as individuals have been shown! Let us live like it!
Song 42 in the Salvation Army Songbook reads:
This is my father’s world,
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.
Reference: Purpose of the Church, by Michael Frost, accessed 3rd May 2014.