I came across this today in some reading I was doing and had to share it with each of you. I LOVE it! I’m not sure that as I pray the Lords Prayer with my kids each night that I had ever considred it from this angle…
The kingdom of God is in you…. WOW – powerful! And the view of confession…. you gotta read it! Puts into words what I’ve felt for so long… I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Thy Kingdom Come – Why repentance is always good news.
The movie The Soloist tells the story of the friendship between Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless man with an undiagnosed mental illness, and Steven Lopez, an LA Times columnist. In one scene Steven spends the night on the streets with Nathaniel. Rats scurry around them on the street as people weep, laugh, brawl, jabber, stagger, and embrace. They curl up in sleeping bags, huddle in stairwells, hunker down over meals. Meanwhile, Nathaniel recites the Lord’s Prayer. His voice floats over the street’s madness and tenderness, its beauty and squalor. “Thy kingdom come,” Nathaniel says, and a woman screams at a man, flails her fists at his chest. “Thy will be done,” he says, and two men share a cigarette. “On earth as it is in heaven,” as a church group hands out boxed meals.
We’re left to ponder—is Nathaniel asking for the kingdom to come to these streets, or is he announcing that the kingdom is already present? Wheat growing beside tares, pearls buried in stony fields, glory hidden in clay jars?
Jesus said to the questioning Pharisees that “The kingdom of God is within you,” but they never managed to see it. Jesus, King of kings, stood before them, the kingdom was among them, and they nailed it to a cross.
To see the kingdom, to open your heart and eyes to it, you must repent. Jesus’ inaugural address was exactly that. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”
Repentance is not a popular idea anymore. That’s a loss, because Jesus connects repentance with both his kingdom and his gospel. At the church where I pastor, we talk a lot about both—the kingdom and the gospel. And so we’ve learned to talk often about repentance as well. It is, after all, the narrow door into the big kingdom.
But I don’t take the old fire-and-brimstone approach, scowling, thundering, finger-waving. I doubt Jesus struck that pose. Jesus’ message is not, “Repent, because hell looms close.” His message is, “Repent, because the kingdom is near.” There’s a world of difference between the two. In Jesus’ hands repentance is an invitation, not a threat. It’s a promise, not a curse. It’s good news, not bad. Repentance often involves sorrow. But it’s sorrow that quickly turns to gladness because repentance is the gift of starting fresh. It’s the doorway into life abundant, life anew, and life eternal. Repentance means that what I’ve done and who I am no longer need define me. My past is not my destiny, if I so choose.
So almost weekly, I ask people to repent. I ask them to change their minds, which is literally what repentance means. I invite them to see things God’s way. To align themselves, stem to stern, with God’s purposes. Initially that alignment is violent and dramatic, a 180-degree turn. But thereafter it’s mostly course corrections; 15 degrees here, five degrees there.
But every turn, by whatever degree, is good news. Every turn moves us closer to where we want to be.
I’m thinking of Muriel. Muriel’s childhood crippled her emotionally. She began visits to the hospital’s psychiatric ward when she was in her teens. By her late forties, she’d seen dozens of counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists. She was on a cocktail of anti-this and anti-that medications so potent it could have subdued a blue whale. She had logged no fewer than 61 rounds of electric shock therapy. But nothing really helped.
The problem was what others had done to her: cruel things, malicious things, godless things. Did she need to repent? Hardly. They did. But they wouldn’t.
One day she walked into the office of a new therapist. Muriel was cynical. She had low expectations. The therapist heard her story, and simply asked a question: “How would your life have been different if someone had come alongside you when you were 14 and showed you your strengths instead of telling you that you were sick?”
“In all those years,” she said, “I’d never considered that. And then I saw it: I wasn’t stuck in my life as I knew it. My life could be otherwise. I decided there and then to live it otherwise. I changed my mind about who I was, which allowed me to change everything almost instantly.”
In a word, she repented. You should see her now. In a phrase, Thy kingdom has come.