Thy Kingdom Come!
Night dragged on clumsily as the disciples snuggled miserably against their drowsy companions. From a distance, the painful cries of their Master fell heavily on their dull ears. One silently observed in the moonlit darkness, the thickness of the Master’s sweat-drops in prayer falling like drops of blood to the ground. In agony, the Lord cried ‘Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me….’ Darkness gloomed terribly, as if with incisors ready to devour patience, before the Lord steadily continued ‘nevertheless not as I will, but as You will it.’
Matthew tells us that Jesus repeated the same words not once, but thrice before He was arrested in Gethsemane that Passover evening of April, 32 AD (Matt. 26: 44). Indubitably, those words sum up the whole struggle of spirit against flesh from the creation till the end of the world. While disobedient Adam and the adamic race lost the battle and fell into the voracious jaws of death, Jesus Christ submitted to the will of God and dealt death a fatal blow on the cross of Calvary. So, the crucifixion of Christ is not tragic news: it is good news.
The will of God is paramount for all things owe their existence to God’s will (Rev. 4: 11). Therefore, Jesus taught His disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6: 10). Heaven is where God rules; in other words, whatever God rules over absolutely is heaven-ruled. And so, if God rules over our lives, our lives become heavenly. Hell is just its opposite. Jesus began His ministry preaching about the kingdom of heaven. ‘Repent,’ He said, ‘for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matt. 4: 17).
This world we live in is a synonym of evil. Just a cursory glance around displays a morbid exhibition
of authorized evil. It is no wonder that the Christian is identified by his separation from the world, whether it appears good or evil. Paul said that by the cross of Jesus Christ he was crucified to the world and the world to him (Gal. 6: 14). The Christian does no longer belong to the world; he belongs to the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Col. 1: 13). A Christian will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15: 50). Thus, the kingdom of God unleashed by Jesus Christ is both a present and a future reality.
Sinners are being saved, the sick healed, and nations transformed; this shows that the kingdom of God is at work right now. A day also will dawn when the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healings in His wings. Then will be fulfilled the prayer: ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.’
THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT
In Cecil DeMille’s movie The Ten Commandments (1956), to Moses’ question of why God left his people in bonds of slavery, Joshua replies, ‘God made man; and man made slaves.’ Human government has historically been a host of inequality. The veins of politics carry germs of corruption fed by lust of power and pleasure. Though the rule of wise and strong men is desired, almost elevating the ruler into a god or demi-god, what really rules all men alike is a fact that could shock anyone.
Two millennia and a half ago Plato (c. 428-c. 347 BC) envisaged a polis in which wisdom ruled over passion. Plato was aversive of the irrational form of democracy (or mobocracy) in which indiscretion was the judge. To him wisdom and justice had no shelter in a democracy where majority vote killed the wise Socrates, his teacher. Not surprising then, his The Republic is a serious attempt to destroy democracy and establish the rule of wisdom.
An analysis of the Platonic problem is necessary. The root problem of politics is the avaricious nature of man. Governance is necessary because passion is chaotic. The struggle is between wisdom and untamed passion. Plato argues that the best government is where wisdom prevails over passion. This requires that first the rulers be purged of all folly and corrupt desires before the state as a body is purged. The situation is a serious one because humans are seen to be basically selfish. In The Republic, Plato posits this problem in the person of Glaucon, who states it through the story of Gyges. According to the story, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia. One day, while he was out in the field feeding his flock, there was a great storm and a great earthquake which left a big opening in the ground nearby. Startled by this sight, Gyges descended into the opening to see, among many marvels, a hollow brazen horse within which was a naked corpse wearing a gold ring. Gyges took the ring, wore it and got out of the hole. On coming back to his companions, he noticed that whenever he turned the collet of the ring inside his hand, he became invisible to all, and whenever he turned the collet outwards he reappeared. Quite dazed, he made several trials of it before realizing that he was in possession of this magical ring that could make him invisible. By means of this new acquirement, he contrived to enter the court, seduced the queen, slew the king, and took the kingdom. Glaucon concludes, ‘Suppose now there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point.’
Gyges’ story is reminiscent of the biblical account of man just before the Flood (Genesis 6: 1, 2). Since there was no established form of human government then, might became right and man did whatever he liked. The resulting condition was so chaotic that God had to destroy the world by means of a flood before renovating it with only eight members of a family whom He had saved. Further studies of Scriptures show that though evil men were exterminated, evil itself retained its scepter over human hearts.
As solution to the human predicament, Plato proposed a well-designed program of education whereby able men could be trained to be rulers and warriors of the state. Obviously, the rulers would be philosophers trained in the highest form of learning. They would possess the four virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Thus, Plato believed wisdom and justice would be guaranteed in his utopian city. But, the possibility of producing such guardians has been greatly debated.
History is evidence that evil and political leadership have deep relationships. Still deeper is the relation between evil and the human heart. Different opinions exist regarding this problem. Some like Plato believe that education and training based on idealism can cultivate the good spirit of man and help to overcome the fleshly passions. Some, however, believe that education cannot transform man since his nature is corrupted by inherent sin. Sin rules deep within the heart of man. Transformation is only possible by the gracious enabling of God’s Spirit.
There are still others who, like Nietzsche, believed in the total elimination of the old notions of good and evil and the redefinition of values along evolutionary lines.
The rise of Adolf Hitler as an incarnation of Nietzsche’s superman who scoffed at the ‘weak’ virtues of Christianity is well-known to history. The destructiveness of such an approach is a lesson learnt at the price of World War II. Peace and human rights has become an important concern since then as seen in the rise of the UNO. Man has come to realize that he cannot live without regard for his neighbour. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ is a divine directive for the only possible harmonious life in this world.
While knowledge of morality is ubiquitous to man, the probabilities of adherence are minimal. Therefore, civil government aims to restrain evil through forceful execution of law and order. Man has no rights in the ‘natural’ state of anarchy. This makes civil government a necessary agent of justice. Unfortunately, even the agent of justice is tainted by its own sins and stands condemned by the law it seeks to uphold. The dissatisfaction with governments and growing political confusion reflects the moral (and immoral) unrest of the world that can’t manage itself.
Religions look to things other than human government for the maintenance of justice. For instance, Hinduism accepts the law of karma as the regulating principle of good and evil. Christianity, on the other, hand looks to God for justice. Karma, however, being an impersonal principle has no sympathy and is bereft of mercy. Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism see the existence of man itself as evidence of ‘sin’ or ‘wrong desires’ or ‘self-centeredness’. But the problem of salvation from sinful living and its penalty is not satisfactorily answered. The Hindu advaitin attempt to deny the reality of sin and the Buddhist attempt to deny the reality of the soul are nihilistic and do not answer to reality.
THE BIBLICAL ALTERNATIVE
In moving our discussion from human government to religion, we have also moved from the natural to the supernatural. Sin is not just a physical problem; it is originally a spiritual problem. By reason of proximity and closeness, the world is very appealing to man through his senses. The natural man, according to Paul, lives to fulfill his flesh’s desires (Rom. 7: 5). Comfort, security, and fleshly satisfaction in the immediate present are his priorities. However, being created in God’s image, man is not left to his instincts but is endowed with intellect and volition for responsible conduct of life (Gen. 1:27;