Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11 v 15)
We ended Part One of this blog post with the thought that to hear what the Spirit says and not apply it to ourselves is one of the greatest tragedies that can befall us in this age.
At the end of the book of Acts, we read of Paul’s statement that the Holy Spirit spoke the truth when He said through Isaiah, “Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving’. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Acts 28 v 26).
Let’s hope, as Kathy has said, that this is not the case of us today! However, I do recall one morning recently, awaking to the sound of a voice inside my head saying, “How can my kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, when my will is not being done by my people?” This may well have been my own imagination, but the voice was very clear and I hadn’t even been thinking about the ‘Lord’s Prayer’!
On the whole, the Church does not look all the way down through the Cross, all the way to the animal kingdom. Jesus is, therefore, not being proclaimed as Lord and Saviour of the whole creation. Billions of His animals are today suffering their own kind of holocaust – beaten, bludgeoned, boiled, burned, ground or skinned alive; de-hydrated; hanged; hunted; imprisoned unable to turn around; physically/psychologically tortured; poisoned; repeatedly force-fed or plucked of their feathers/fur; slaughtered without effective pre-stunning; starved; torn away from family; trapped in agony – the list goes on and on! Most Christians either don’t know or don’t want to know about these horrors. Their reasons are usually either, “It upsets me to learn about animal suffering – I’d rather not know about it!” or, “I have enough on looking after humans – I haven’t time for animals as well!” Yet, isn’t God’s love indivisible? Shouldn’t all sentient beings be treated with love and respect?
I believe that Jesus is very upset about how we are using and abusing His creation, “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth and His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6 v 6). He gives us free choice and will not use us as puppets; but I believe He wants His followers to look and see what He sees – not to close our eyes. He wants Christians to be at the forefront of speaking out about the horrific suffering of animals, but it seems that to many, only humans count. This is a Cross we animal welfarists have to carry with Jesus.
So, how can God’s people do His will in order to help bring about His kingdom, when it comes to proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Saviour of the whole Creation? Many churches do now hold Pet or Animal Services, which are a wonderful Blessing and outreach for both animal and human congregations! However, these only tend to happen once a year and, as Kathy said, “In most cases, creation care is not taught in our churches, in fact most doctrine of the Church is human-centred – animals are not included!” What a treasure it would be if, on a regular basis, we were to read, practise and teach the scriptures with animals in mind too; if, when we pray for others, we were to incorporate all of creation, including the animal kingdom, so that our eyes and hearts are opened, not only to the suffering of humanity, but to the suffering of all God has made; if leaders were to bring us out from being so human-centred by including in their messages all creation and teach us how to raise up our Risen Christ as Lord and Saviour of all creation.
On a more practical note, there are several ways in which the churches could contribute towards making a huge difference to the situation of animals. Just as many now advertise themselves as being a ‘Fair Trade’ church, they could also be ‘Cruelty-free’ or ‘Free-Range’, when choosing cleaning products or food produce and offer more vegetarian options when catering. For more ways that individual church members can live out God’s kingdom values, when it comes to caring for creation, (see here; also, see our Resource page for other links and statistical information).
Jesus died for all creation, to reconcile all things to Himself, and this includes animals (Colossians 1 v 19-20). All creation is present at the redemption and will be praising our Lord and Saviour with us!
In Revelation 4, surrounding God’s eternal throne, John sees “four living creatures” representing the whole creation; and “twenty-four elders” representing the Church. Here the scene is the whole of creation worshipping God, crying out, “You are worthy our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4 v 11). In the words of Francis of Assisi, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing!”
In Revelation 5, John weeps because no-one was found worthy to open the scroll in God’s hand. But when one of the elders says to John, “See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah … is able to open the scroll” (Revelation 5 v 5), John lifts his eyes, expecting to see a lion, but instead he sees a Lamb, “looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5 v 6). Though Christ has the strength of a lion, He has the gentleness of a lamb. The moment the Lamb takes the scroll, the living creatures and the elders fall down before Him. Each one has a bowl full of incense representing the prayers of the Church. And John continues, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing: ‘To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!'” (Revelation 5 v 13).
In Revelation 11, we are shown that at the end of all things the offer of mercy will be withdrawn, and the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of Christ (Revelation 11 v 15). Those of us who pray, “Thy kingdom come”, will one day see our prayers answered. The kingdom will come in answer to the prayers of the Church. Our praying has more influence in the world than we will ever realise here on earth!
Christ has come to establish a kingdom (the rule of God), As Christians our first commitment is to that kingdom. We are to obey the laws of the state (Romans 13:1), but when they clash with the laws of God, then we are free to disobey.
Our trust must be in Christ and we must stay faithful to Him. It is so easy not to hear what we don’t want to hear, hence John’s use of our Lord’s saying: “He who has an ear, let him hear” (Revelation 13 v 9). Are we listening?
In Revelation 17, Babylon is the name given to the world, not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense – the system that seeks to set itself up independently of God. “Everything in the world,” says John in his first letter, “- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2 v 16). We live in the world but we must watch that we are not of it.
We must watch that we do not fall into the trap of thinking of the world as just an evil influence, for behind it is an evil intelligence. Jesus referred to the devil as “the prince of this world” (John 14 v 30; 16 v 11). There is a spirit in the world that seeks to attract people away from the worship of God to the worship of pleasure: “Do not love the world (systems) or anything in the world … The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever” (1 John 2 v 15-17).
If you haven’t already seen this excellent sermon by Greg Boyd, I recommend you watch it (the Sermon actually starts five minutes into the video).
Thank you for reading! Your thoughts are welcome! Part Three, ‘The Church At The Crossroads’, to follow shortly!! ~Ros