Kingdom includes more than our hearts
February 12, 2020
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
I would guess this line is repeated in prayer about a billion times a day, all around the world. It’s repeated by believers, who finally come to the “amen,” and then try to figure out how to live in a world that is inevitably going to get worse and worse.
It’s likely that those who have noticed the jagged-edged irony there, have settled on some rectifying idea like this: Well, see, we don’t mean this Earth right here. We mean the radically new situation that will result from the return of Jesus. That’s the “Earth” where God’s will is going to be done. But, on this one? No, no.
Never mind that the same dear folks are enthusiastic about seeing the whole rest of the Lord’s Prayer right here and now, especially that bit about daily bread, forgiveness of sin, and deliverance from evil. Nobody’s praying for daily bread while thinking, “Amen. God will meet my needs someday in the great by and by — not here, of course, but there.”
This in an atrophied kingdom vision: the bad guys take over everything in time and history. Christians are left huddled behind their circled wagons, hoping for a heavenly version of the evacuation of Saigon.
Several bad ideas in history have contributed to this shrunken expectation. One of those is Pietism.
The movement called Pietism began in the late 17th century as an attempt to renew the believer’s focus on his personal experience of the faith. Which is, of course, fine and dandy.
This basic idea also came with an emphasis against faithless, formalized expressions of public Christianity. This too is fine and dandy. We should oppose those expressions anywhere they occur (beginning with ourselves).
It became problematic when that urge to condemn empty, worthless statements of faith in the wider society morphed into the idea that Christianity should have nothing do with that wider society at all. This idea has made its way down to us.
It comes in the form of slogans like, “We should just preach the Gospel,” as opposed to actually applying Gospel truth to public issues. You see, that is “politics.” And politics is dirty business, which should be avoided by the truly pious believer.
That believer should focus on making sure Christ is King in his own heart, but nowhere else.
Pietists are also behind the current fascination with “spiritual disciplines.” These are a group of daily exercises, meant to insure that the believer is sufficiently focused on inward, emotion-laden intimacy with God. Their goal is the achievement of the old insult: “He’s too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.”
If that sounds harsh, it’s because I know I wasted years of potential kingdom service, being absorbed in them myself.
I’m a big fan of increasing piety in God’s kingdom. Pietism, however, is poison. The solution is that we should apply the teachings of Scripture to every area of life, including family dynamics; business ownership; finances; arts and entertainment; and, even public issues that fall under the dirty label of “politics.” This is the true piety.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: