Reimagining God's social kin-dom

March 14th, 2023

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….”

Sitting quietly, I listen to the Lord’s Prayer lifted by the congregation’s voice, in all its varying tones and tenures. With my eyes closed and breathing deeply, I feel like I am sitting at the threshold of something vast and mysterious, like the ocean’s shoreline. Each line of the Lord’s Prayer sends waves of something holy enfleshed within the material, inviting me to lean into the mystery of our physical world as interwoven with the Holy Spirit. It becomes a verbal sacrament extending God’s grace as the eternal within these finite words. 

“...Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven….”

After our time in prayer, this line sticks with me. I wonder about God’s kingdom and our frequent prayers for it to come. What are we ushering in with those words? Do we believe God is answering this prayer today and every day? And if so, what is our role? How do we participate in the coming of God’s kingdom? I am humbled and excited that part of what it means to be a Christian is to point to and jump on board with how the Spirit is moving God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven! Yes, as disciples, we practice personal submission to God’s will, but God’s kingdom goes beyond personal sanctification. Kingdom, the word itself, cannot exist without social implications. Together, we can imagine a world that looks like God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven and graciously be a part of its coming. Together, we can discern the Spirit’s invitation to join in the transformation of our lives and our world in and through Christ. 

However, as we begin to circle ‘God’s kingdom come,’ awareness of the connotations can be important work. Personally, the word ‘kingdom’ is complicated. At first, my references drum up hero-journey stories and fairytales. Neither offers much of a vision for what a good and just kingdom is beyond individuals' character development. Most of us do not have lived experience of a monarchy. Plus, the word ‘kingdom’ carries a dominating autocratic and patriarchical tone. Now, I get that God’s kingdom is not like any kingdom a human could reign. It is GOD’S kingdom, where perfect love orders the world with restorative justice, ever-flowing mercy, and remarkable grace. And though I can do mental gymnastics to hold a vision for God’s kingdom, I have found the word kin-dom to be far more generative. 

Wesley understood humans as created and dependent beings. Dependent in that God created us for relationship; relationship with God, others, ourselves, and all of creation. Kin-dom elicits a vital shift for what God’s social order begins with and pours out from; a notion of our being all (not only humanity) brothers and sisters in Christ. Such is a dynamic order that displaces hierarchy and invites images of deep interconnectivity, of being kin to one another. Some find the word kindom utterly compelling in its ability to catalyze an alternative worldview. It re-orders notions of power plays, social rank, and men ruling towards vulnerability, belonging, and reciprocity of care. It places our primary identity at the forefront of our imaginations as related and relating beings, interconnected and interdependent. We see this modeled in our Triune God. God’s very being is illustrated for us through the relationship and connection of the three (Creator, Son, Holy Spirit) as one. 

Now, the point of sharing this is not to convince everyone to throw out the use of the word ‘kingdom.’ I share all of this because I want us to remember that as we pray for God’s kingdom or kindom to come and God’s will to be done, we submit ourselves to joyful participation in this work. We are naming that we are individually and collectively coming before our God to submit to God’s will in our personal lives and for the social work of God’s kin(g)dom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Our limited and imperfect words, offered in prayer, can ignite our imaginations and awaken us to see the Holy Spirit’s work afresh in the coming of God’s kin(g)dom. 

When I imagine God’s kin-dom, I think of a world where relationships with one another, ourselves, creation, and our Creator experience profound healing. When I first read the 2020 Social Principles, I caught glimpses of such realities. The “what if’s” for the Church and the world filled my mind. I wondered how we could engage in faithful conversation around what God may be doing through these statements. How were these glimpses of God’s kin(g)dom breaking in on Earth as it is in heaven? How is the Spirit inviting us to testify and participate?

Wesley was wholly devout in his spiritual formation. And he saw acts of mercy and justice in local communities and the world as deeply connected to what it meant to follow Christ. Abiding in God and following Christ resulted in compassion for all of creation. Such compassion provoked early Methodists to speak out and rise up with neighbors for social change. These actions stemmed from all they knew of God’s love and the Spirit’s work throughout time. The United Methodist Social Principles “represent the prayerful and earnest efforts… to speak to issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation….”[1] In about 40 pages, they offer statements about creation, economics, society, and politics. They offer us a platform to find new ways our faith can intersect with the world’s deep pains in and with our communities. 

As we continue in this season of Lent, may we be emboldened to look at our sin, not just our personal sin but the social sin that has caused inequality, injustice, and immense suffering. If we cannot make space to hold what is broken or dead, we cannot fully testify to how God is mending, nor know where the Spirit’s inviting us to join Her healing, resurrecting work. In my next article, we’ll look at the first section of our Social Principles, the Community of All Creation. We’ll explore how we can honestly reflect, act, and respond as kin to a creation that is in deep pain and suffering. Until then, I hope you join me in prayer and action for “Thy kin(g)dom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.



[1] Cited from the 2020 United Methodist Social Principles, 5.

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