On Earth As It Is in Heaven: Pushing Back the Darkness
“Wow,” my oldest said. “That was incredible.”
“I know,” I replied. Tears streamed down my face, and I took a few deep breaths to collect myself.
The two of us had just finished watching the final scene of the 2012 movie, Les Miserablés, based on the stage musical of the same name. I’d seen the live production a half-dozen times, but each time the closing number made me cry.
After the deeply-flawed, deeply-faithful characters strive for freedom from tyranny and injustice, both those who died and those who lived sing together of heaven in a stirring finale, “Can You Hear the People Sing?”
Their voices raised along with their flags, the now-unified cast asks:
Do you hear the people sing/Lost in the valley of the night?
It is a music of a people/Who are climbing to the light …
They will live again in freedom/In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the plough-share,/They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken/And all men will have their reward.
The song touches the place inside me that longs for earth and heaven to meet. My spirit groans to see Satan thrown down, once and for all.
But when I say, “Lord, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” what does that really mean? How can I live kingdom-minded on this fragile soil while continuing to pray—and work—for spiritual fruits such as peace and love?
As children of the light, you and I are meant to shine so brightly that darkness is pushed back, even a tiny bit. When we do that, heaven kisses earth.
We Are All Called
Whether we work as mothers or movers, contractors or cooks, when we serve diligently in the place God has set us, we are freedom-fighters. We plant seeds of hope with each action, interaction, and reaction. “Faith can … be the spiritual energy that enables the transformations for which our world so desperately hungers,” says Jim Wallis in Faith Works: How to Live Your Beliefs and Ignite Positive Social Change.
We are part of a royal priesthood, and our sphere of influence is our congregation. With the Spirit’s help, you and I can bring God’s kingdom to earth in a myriad of ways. We can create a redemptive piece of art, perform thankless tasks with a joyful spirit, and respond to insults or slights with forgiveness.
In his book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, Michael Horton writes:
In all sorts of ways we’re not even aware of, the kingdom is growing and our neighbors are being served. There may be a quiet reference in the coffee room that provokes a coworker weeks later to ask a question about life and death … You made lunch for the kids and got them to school on time. You worked well with your hands to supply neighbors with what they need … Now we are free to do the little things that matter, without anxiety about how it all turns out in the end.
Not Up to Us
Remember what Jesus said to Peter, the ready-fire-aim disciple with a habit of putting his foot squarely in his mouth? He announced: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
It’s a paradox: we are called to work for restoration and renewal, pray for transformation, and put feet to our faith. However, in the end, we trust that God will do the work through, for, and in us.
It’s important to remember this when we engage in freeing modern-day slaves, feeding the hungry, and clothing the poor. The sheer number of people living in all sorts of captivity is overwhelming. “Compassion fatigue” is a common ailment affecting those who serve those on life’s margins.
While we are seeking the kingdom and making God’s priorities ours, we must rest in the fact that God is the one who changes people and institutions. His spirit prompts revival. His grace brings salvation. We don’t have to fear that we’ll mess things up.
As Paul wrote to the Roman church, “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
On Earth As It Is in Heaven
When we pray, do we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and then sit back and wait for someone to show up on the scene and make things happen? As people of faith—at work, in our community, in our home, in our relationships—how do we partner with God to usher in the kingdom of God, right where we are? How can we live the gospel in such a way that we welcome the kingdom of God wherever we show up? What is the impact of doing good work in the places God has called us? What does it mean to do good work, and why does it matter? Does my good work every day make a difference for eternity? After we pray, On Earth As It Is in Heaven, what are practical ways to partner with God in seeing that come to pass, right in the place where we are?