God is our Father. He is also our King.
Both images suggest something important about God. The first suggests parental care. So, when we pray, we focus on God’s powerful love for us. But the second image suggests political authority—the moral right and the actual power to rule us. It suggests that God has a right to expect our obedience and that we have a duty to serve him. Consequently, when we pray, we prioritize God’s agenda for our lives. That is what we mean when we say, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
According to Matthew 4:17, God’s kingdom formed the substance of Jesus’ teaching: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (The kingdom of heaven is simply another way of talking about the kingdom of God.) Its coming was considered “good news” (4:23, 9:35). Jesus began many of his parables with the statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” (13:24, 31, 44, 45, 47). He commissioned his disciples to preach about the kingdom (10:7). And the kingdom’s power explained Jesus’ ability to work miracles: “if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (12:28).
Unfortunately, we usually misunderstand Jesus’ use of the word kingdom. For us, it is geographical (the United Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom). A kingdom is a land (England, Disneyland). For Jesus, however, the kingdom was primarily an attribute of God—kingship. The traditional ending of the Lord’s Prayer says, “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” It means that God is royal, powerful, and glorious. So, when Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is near,” he meant that God was about to exercise his moral authority and reign over the world.
Today, the kingdom is controversial. In a democratically governed, consumer-oriented society such as ours, the image of God as Father resonates deep in the heart of believers. But we are unaccustomed to and uncomfortable with the notion that he is King. Such a notion implies that we do not have authority over the One who rules us; whereas we believe that our government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It also cuts against our belief that “the customer is king”—that others must cater to our needs, wants, and whims.
We need both images, however. Both are biblical. They are autobiographical revelations of God’s character—the very words he uses to speak about himself (2 Tim. 3:16). Because God is our Father, we know that he loves us. And because he is our King, we know that we must prioritize his will above all others’—including our own.
God the Father cares deeply for us. God the King calls us out of our selfishness. Only when we lose ourselves in obedience to this King can we find our lives’ true purpose (Matt. 10:39, 16:25).
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2010 at 12:05 am and is filed under Experiencing God through Prayer, The Daily Word. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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