This is part of a series on the Lord’s prayer, culture and spiritual warfare in which we look at the subversive prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples and how that prayer engages in the war of ideas with the philosophies that pervade our age.
Part 3 – Globalism & Nationalism and ‘Your Kingdom Come’
Globalism and Nationalism
In recent years, one of the biggest shifts in public thinking is the re-emergence of the clash between nationalism and globalism. It has become front and centre of political discourse. It has become a badge of identity to divide ‘us’ from ‘them’ and many (including, sadly, some Christians) have thrown their lot in so completely with one side or the other that they struggle to see how anybody with their head-screwed on could disagree.
Stewart Patrick (no, not the guy who plays Captain Picard) expressed it this way: “The most salient political division today is not between conservatives and liberal in the United States or social democrats in the United Kingdom and France, but between nationalists and globalists. The victory of the Leave campaign in Britain, the triumph of Trump, and the unprecedented success of Marine Le Pen’s National Front (albeit in a losing effort) were underpinned by economic and cultural anxiety that transcended traditional ideological lines – and a rejection of conventional parties and a political establishment that had too long ignored these concerns.”
Here we have two competing ideas warring for hearts and minds, each making promises of security and prosperity and thriving, and that ultimately each fail to deliver what they promise – and Jesus has something so much better that he references in this prayer.
Let’s define some terms. ‘Globalisation’ has been defined as the ‘cross-border flow of ideas, information, people, money, goods and serviced – and it has resulted in an inter-connected world where national leaders have increasingly limited ability to protect the lives and livelihoods of citizens’. When we talk about globalism, we are getting at the idea that this process is both a good thing and a source of hope for a prosperous, safe and secure world.
By contrast, ‘Nationalism’ rejects such inter-connectedness in favour of a sovereign nation state that has more autonomy to do what it perceives as best for its people. Often can be expressed through isolationist trade policies, a desire to have control over the rules and efforts to keep others on the outside. Again, this idea comes with a promise of thriving, prosperity and security
Whilst there are evident advantages to international co-operation, and also advantages to the ability to make decisions on the national level, both of these ideologies carry inherent dangers, and the problems have been repeatedly exposed historically. Additionally, both should generate a level of discomfort when thought about Biblically. The inward-turned impulse of nationalism is in stark contrast to the outward looking thrust of the Biblical narrative. Whereas those who see globalism as the answer to mankind’s problems would do well to reflect on the lessons learned at the tower of Babel.
So what is the answer?
In his prayer, Jesus teaches us to look not to the human nations in which we live, nor to a united one world order, but to another kingdom entirely – the Kingdom of God.
Your Kingdom Come
When we pray ‘Your Kingdom Come’, we are not looking to a geographical realm with boundaries, but simply to the rule and reign of God. The defining issue is where authority lies, and as the Psalmist states: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19). Whilst we have spent the last half decade tearing ourselves apart over whether sovereignty should rest in London or in Brussels, we have perhaps missed the point that sovereignty rests in heaven and always has. That is where our hope is, not in any earthly power – however that power may be organised or constituted.
In his teaching, Jesus was obsessed with the Kingdom of God, and he returned to the theme over and over again. The kingdom is mentioned in the Gospels no less that 129 times, and Jesus saw his coming as the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel he declared in Mark 1:15. Through his parables and sayings, Jesus taught us what this kingdom is like. Through his actions, he manifested the kingdom and in his death and resurrection we see the ruler of this earth defeated and men and women ransomed and brought into his kingdom rule.
The kingdom is both now and not yet. We will not fully see the kingdom until the day Christ returns and the enemy is finally vanquished, when Christ will personally reign over that future realm in all his sovereign glory. And yet as God rules and reigns today in the hearts of men, and as God’s power makes earth more like heaven, that is his kingdom. Jesus taught the kingdom is like a seed that grows into a great tree, and this is the age that we live in – and so we work to see God’s kingdom increasingly established, and so we pray ‘your kingdom come’.
So when we pray the Lord’s prayer we are praying for an increase in Christ’s reign now, both in our own life and in others, and we are praying for a hastening of the day that the kingdom comes in its’ fullness. That is the hope. That is the promise. That is where thriving, prosperity and security for humankind are found. Both globalism and nationalism make promises that they cannot deliver on. It is in God’s kingdom that we must instead place our hope and our identity.
In a world that is increasingly polarising into strongholds of globalism and nationalism, Peter Leithart urges Christians to refuse this choice: “Our deepest brotherhood isn’t with other citizens of our nation but with those who are united with us by the Spirit in the Son. Baptismal water is thicker than blood; the word unites us more basically than commitment to any constitution, no matter how wise its political institutions. We cannot be nationalists… On the other hand, the church is a body with many members, each individual member contributing in a unique way to the edification of the whole. The church is a nation of priests that encompasses all nations, tribes and tongues. Nations retain their national identities – their languages, histories and customs – when they are discipled by the gospel; their nation identities are fulfilled in service to Christ the king. We cannot be globalists.”
We were not made to make the best of it by purely human strength – whether by drawing together globally or bunkering down as nations. But rather we are made for a kingdom that is unlike anything this would has seen. A kingdom of humility. A kingdom of service. A kingdom of radical inclusivity where the door is open to all. A diverse kingdom. A kingdom centred on Christ. A kingdom of joy, righteousness and peace. A kingdom of eating and drinking and love in community. A kingdom characterised by the cross. A kingdom empowered by a glorious resurrection. This is what we are made for and this is what we are empowered for.
Jesus taught us a subversive prayer. We pray it in a world that is gridlocked in a conflict between the globalists and nationalists. We pray it as a declaration that there is a better way. And we pray it knowing that God is on the move, and whilst parliaments and kings and presidents and nations rage, he is faithfully at work amongst the least the last and the lost, breaking in and gloriously transforming this world one life at a time; and we pray it longing for the day when that seed has grown and has become the greatest of all the trees, covering the earth, and when all sickness and death and tears are gone, and every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name.
Your Kingdom Come.