I went to a clergy conference once where some goofy liberal Anglican kept on referring to Jesus and ‘the commonwealth of God.’
So over a cup of coffee I said, “‘Scuse me for asking, but what is ‘the commonwealth of God?”
“Well, it is a term I have devised which I think is more relevant to modern people living in a Western democracy. Kingdoms and monarchs are soooo medieval!”
“Yes, but democracy isn’t necessarily a modern thing. I mean the Greeks and Romans understood the concept of a republic or a democratic form of government.”
“Just to make the point that Jesus and his followers would have understood democracy or commonwealth or republic or what you will, but he rejected that as a concept for what he was trying to communciate. He chose ‘kingdom’ because that was the best (and inspired) was to convey the idea of a community of people in shared submission to their Lord. Are you sure you have the authority to change that concept to something you like better?”
“I’m just trying to communicate more effectively.”
“Well, you didn’t communicate very well to me. Instead you’ve offended me. You want a cookie with your coffee?”
Anyhow, in the Lord’s prayer we affirm the whole idea of the Divine Monarchy. Jesus puts it right there in the prayer he taught us because it is one of the non negotiables. When we say, “Thy Kingdom come” we’re also saying, “You’re the King and I’m the subject here.” God is not the Prime Minister or President or Chairman of the Board. He’s the King. That’s a position that is bound up with who he is and it is a job that lasts forever.
If that is the case, then we would expect his kingdom on earth to be just that–a kingdom. In other words, his kingdom on earth is the Church and the Church is therefore hierarchical. There’s a chain of command. There’s authority and rank. However, the difference from the world’s understandint of monarchy is that, although the monarch (Christ himself) is absolute, his absolute power is confirmed by his absolute weakness. Although he was in the form of God he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but took upon himself the form of a servant and was obedient even to death on a cross.
Therefore as we affirm the Kingdom and pray for the Kingdom to come on earth we also affirm that this is an upside down kingdom. The first are the last and the last are the first. The greatest of all will be the servant of all. The King is the humble servant and the humble servant the king. So when I pray for the kingdom to come I’m standing the whole world on its head. Nothing is what it seemed.
Christ’s Kingdom is the other way around and so when I pray for his kingdom to come I am praying not only that the whole world might be reversed, but also that my world will be reversed and turned upside down. In this prayer I say, “Change the world, but first change my world. Take this proud and stubborn soul who wants power and pleasure and wealth and make me the servant of all so that I may reign forever in the Kingdom of Christ the Slave who is therefore Christ the King.