Maybe your mother taught you some basic life lessons like:
“Don’t chew with your mouth open.”
“If you can’t say anything nice about a person, don’t say anything.”
“Instead of saying someone is ‘a few bricks short of a load,’ just say ‘Bless their heart.’”
And the big one: “Don’t ever talk about politics or religion at the dinner table or family gatherings.”
Those two topics can set off fireworks worthy of the 4th of July around a dinner table. Your Mom was not the first to say it. The advice to “Never discuss religion or politics with those who hold opinions opposite to yours” has been cited in print since at least 1840.
So why bring them up: religion and politics? You have them both in the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus’ disciples would pray “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” any earthly nation would get nervous.
Herod certainly did. When he heard that a king had been born in Bethlehem he immediately ordered that all baby boys under two in and around Bethlehem be massacred. When crowds were following Jesus the religious leaders and Roman leaders in Jerusalem got nervous. Jesus had not been killed as an infant. They would crucify him now.
Why the reaction? Their kingdom was threatened. People were pledging their allegiance to the “kingdom of heaven.” They would follow their King rather than any earthly ruler. They were living to bring the politics of heaven to bear on the earth in which we live.
Those who pray this prayer are pledging their loyalties to God’s kingdom over any other kingdom. His kingdom. His power. His glory. These are not the same as the world’s.
Satan attempted to get Jesus to take the path of the world. Using power for self: “Turn these stones to bread” Gaining some glory through your actions: “Throw yourself off the temple. Securing your own kingdom at any cost: “Worship me and all the kingdoms of the world are yours.”
Jesus refused each of these. Jesus’ kingdom is a contrast. It has no geographical boundaries but resides within the human heart. His power is used not for his own good—he did not turn stones to bread—but for others, as when he multiplied the loaves and fish.
And his glory is altogether peculiar. In John’s Gospel Jesus’ glory is his cross. Glory in God’s kingdom has to do with death, burial and resurrection. Glory in God’s kingdom says the power of the cross is stronger than the power of the sword. His kingdom is not forced on anyone. His power is used for the benefit of his people. His glory is found in self-sacrifice for others.
When we pray this prayer we are pledging our allegiance to the kingdom of heaven. It does not matter what country we live in; we are first citizens of heaven. Regardless of the rules our country might set in place to tell us how to live, we get our way of life from Jesus and his teaching about the kingdom. Whenever the two conflict—and they will in many places—we are to follow the kingdom of heaven.
We are also pledging that we will be about kingdom business. Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” The word “citizenship” was a word the Romans gave a special colony they had conquered where their purpose was now to secure their homeland for the conquering country. They would spread that country’s way of doing things, its culture, and its politics.
When you pray this prayer you are entering the realm of religion and politics. The kingdoms and countries of this world are not the same as God’s kingdom. And the personal kingdoms that you and I erect for ourselves need to be given up for God’s kingdom. Praying this prayer will equip us to see these kingdoms in conflict and seek first the kingdom of God.
As Jesus’ followers, we have only one citizenship. We have no difficulty knowing where we pledge our allegiance.
If you agree the proper response is “Amen,” or a simple “yes.”
Question: What personal kingdom are you building that you need to give up for God’s?