Category: We want the Kingdom

We want purpose and meaning

‘Cause if you’re not really here
Then the stars don’t even matter
Now I’m filled to the top with fear
That it’s all just a bunch of matter

Sam Sparro

Jesus announced good news to the world – and that good news was that “the Kingdom of God is near”. This is one of a series of posts about ways in which our society is longing for the Kingdom of God, although it doesn’t realise it yet. My hope is that they will provide a basis for conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours – and perhaps a gentle provocation to some readers who do not follow Jesus, too. You can see the original post, with links to others in the series, here.

When I was in 6th form, my careers advisor told me that the job marketplace was in the midst of a radical shift. “No longer”, he told me, “are people choosing a career for life, and working their way up in the company they started with. Instead, the average employee is going to be changing jobs and perhaps careers six to seven times in their working lives.” I don’t know how accurate his statistics were, but he was right about my generation and subsequent ones being very mobile in the workplace. I studied languages, and I’ve been a teacher, a computer programmer and now a pastor. But a much greater differentiator between generations is why people are choosing jobs.

In my head, the classic job interview centres around the suitability of the candidate for the job – their skills, expertise, attitude, and track record. Nowadays many are much more two-way: millennials and Gen-Zs want to know what the company offers them by way of job satisfaction, purpose, culture, and ethical standards. Whether or not they’re in the position to be picky, those questions feature heavily in how people of those generations talk about their job prospects. Increasingly, our culture is not content to block off 8+ hours of the day as a necessary exercise in paying the bills, and to simply “live for the weekend”.

Some of this has no doubt come about through an increasing consciousness of the effects of everyday actions: awareness of climate change and modern slavery in particular have shown us how the companies we support, buy from, or work for can have a far-reaching global impact, and therefore have a moral value. If we were using religious language, we might say that all of life has become sacred.

However, it’s at least as much due to the increased focus on the value of the individual. The mindset of millenials includes rights to a supportive environment, and to accommodation of personal tastes and interests, which has both positive and negative side-effects. Millennials are more likely to hold out for “living their best life” (to use a phrase that’s become popular) and to pioneer social change; they also have a reputation for being more fragile and averse to criticism.

So how does this culture, which looks for value and meaning in everything, reflect a longing for the Kingdom of God? Let’s start with the obvious – in the Christian worldview, everything was created not only by God, but for His glory. At the most basic level, everything should have meaning because everything should glorify God. On top of this, when God created the earth, it was good. Before sin entered the world, God had created nature, mankind, and work. However long it lasted, before Adam & Eve sinned, their lives were spent enjoyably serving a purpose: filling the earth and subduing it. Any culture which seeks to recapture value and meaning in work is reaching out for the Kingdom of God.

However, it’s not only in the world of work that our society is crying out for meaning: “living your best life” involves self-expression, finding fulfilment in recreation and relationships. The pain-point for our culture seems to come from the individualistic way in which this search for purpose is worked out. The focus on individual self-expression develops ever more niche subcultures, many of which then consider themselves micro-aggressed if disagreed with. The importance on individual fulfilment also leads to diminishing commitment to others – the embodiment of this is perhaps the Facebook “interested” button, which is offered as an alternative to “going” or “can’t go” on a facebook event. “Interested” becomes a socially-acceptable way of saying, “I might go unless I get a better offer”.

A further point of conflict with our culture comes around the purposes towards which we strive. We read of an episode in Genesis when people really start to assert their independence from God: in chapter 11, they gather together and start building a tower “to stretch to the heavens”, to “make a name for themselves” and protect them from being scattered and insignificant. God responds by confusing their language, but I find his words hard to fathom:

If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

Genesis 11:6

What is God’s objection? Clearly they cannot really build a tower to reach the heavens, in the sense of reaching God through their own efforts – and His concern is not that they might. I think God’s concern is not that they will succeed in doing something sacriligious, or that they would set their sights too high, but rather that they would set their sights too low, on something high in their estimation but still utterly insignificant, and in achieving it be satisfied.

Imagine a group of secondary-school children who have never used woodworking tools, and who sneak into the workshop when the teacher’s out. They don’t know what’s possible with the right tools and techniques, so they decide to see how many bits of wood they can nail together. Working together, they manage to nail all of their wood into one big mass of planks and spars. Ecstatic that they’ve achieved their goal, they set out to make the biggest glue-gun ball, to split a beam with a hammer and a screwdriver, and so on. Because they are their own “echo chamber”, the goal-setters and the judges of success, nothing they set out to achieve will be impossible for them – but at the end of the day, they’ll have achieved nothing worthwhile by any external standard. Our culture’s desire for purpose is flawed because we don’t know what really matters, and what true meaning really is. Devoid of any understanding of relationship with the Creator, or of life after death, we set goals that ignore His designs and think only of this short life.

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.

Francis Chan

Why not try an exercise over the next week or two? Be on the lookout for people expressing their longing for purpose and meaning. Perhaps try to find out more – what kind of thing would satisfy that longing? If we believe, as the Scriptures teach us, that true satisfaction is only found in relationship with God, we should expect those conversations to point to God and the fulfilment He gives.

We want protection

The nation state has taken the place of God … National governments are widely assumed to be responsible for and capable of providing those things which former generations thought only God could provide – freedom from fear, hunger, disease and want – in a word: “happiness”.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Other Side of 1984

Jesus announced good news to the world – and that good news was that “the Kingdom of God is near”. This is one of a series of posts about ways in which our society is longing for the Kingdom of God, although it doesn’t realise it yet. My hope is that they will provide a basis for conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours – and perhaps a gentle provocation to some readers who do not follow Jesus, too. You can see the original post, with links to others in the series, here.

Movies involving national or international disasters tend to have a couple of stock characters that crop up every time: one is the hero who rescues everyone; the other is the villainous, cowardly or incompetent person who should have prevented the disaster. Real-life disasters are no different: the Coronavirus outbreak has seen Captain Tom and the NHS recognised as heroes; and within the first few weeks of the first government response, there were already calls for inquiries and investigations into alleged incompetence because ministers were too hasty, too slow, too unclear, or changing their mind too often. We have a crisis, and we’ve picked our heroes and villains. For many, Captain Tom and the NHS are “our side of the table” and the government are “the problem”.

I’m not a virologist, a statistician or a PR expert, so I’m not in a position to critique whether the government response has been competent or not – the observation I want to make is that as a nation we expect our government to provide us with health and security. This means that when disaster hits, our tendency is not to see them as people fighting alongside us, trying to achieve the same goals as us, but rather as incompetents or worse, who are failing to deliver on their duty.

Over most of human history, these two longings of humanity – health and security, or “peace within” and “peace without” – were laid at the feet of a deity. People called out to whatever god they believed in, and hoped that they would answer. The trouble with this arrangement was that their gods were mostly of their own invention. The prophet Isaiah points out how ludicrous this is, writing:

He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak … it is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself …
But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.
Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal … he also warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.’
From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me! You are my god!’

Isaiah 44:14-17

That setup seems as ridiculous to us today as it did then – how can one section of trunk be disposable firewood while another is a god? And yet we do the same – we know full well that none of us can foresee and prevent every terrorist attack or ensure that every cancer sufferer is diagnosed and treated before it’s too late, yet we gather together a group of fellow humans, pay them a high salary, and expect them to deliver it. No human can bear that load, any more than a section of tree-trunk. We want to be protected, but we are looking in the wrong place – the only one who can provide those things is the God who created all things.

However ill-directed it might be, our desire for protection is God-given, because God created us to live under His protection. Before there were earthquakes or terrorists, God created man and woman to live in relationship with Him, trusting Him to say what was good and what was bad – in much the same way that a young child trusts their parents. And we read in the Bible that this current era will end with everyone who is willing to do so putting themselves back under God’s protection by acknowledging His sovereignty, and agreeing that He alone is capable of judging good from evil – “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments.”1Rev 19:1-2, click here for more Revelation references.

Our message is not “Jesus will keep you safe from coronavirus and ISIS”

How can this longing for health and security be a gateway for conversations about Jesus? This needs thought, because it’s simply not the case that Christians live in a constant state of health and peace! In fact, the author of our faith died aged around 33, and many of the pioneers of the early church died at the hands of violent men. To this day, you find will fibromyalgia, bulimia, cancer and broken collar-bones in churches around the world. Our message is not “Jesus will keep you safe from coronavirus and ISIS” – rather, the hope of Christianity comes in two parts.

The first part relates to this life. No good parent tells their child that they’ll protect them from all hurt: my two older kids have spent most of their playtime hours doing scooter jumps off a plank in the turning circle outside our house, and their arms and legs are covered in scrapes and bruises. They’ve also fallen out of trees, burned their fingers on cake tins, and been on the receiving end of unkind words. What they do know for sure is that they can run to Caroline or to me, and know that we will sit with them, comfort them, hug them, talk with them, help them process the situation, and in some cases learn from it. Jesus promises us this. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but we do know who will walk through it with us.

As a follower of Jesus, my confidence about my health is that after I die Christ will resurrect me into a body that will never be sick again.

The second part is harder to get our head around: this life is not the real deal – it’s a pale shadow of what’s to come. As a follower of Jesus, my confidence about my health is not that I won’t get sick, but that after I die Christ will resurrect me to a body that will never be sick again. My confidence about my security is that even if I experience trouble now, it is outweighed by an eternal glory that is wholly dependable and utterly unshakeable.

To think like this requires faith. Perhaps you have had someone say to you “I wish I had your faith, but I don’t” – I know that I’ve heard it a few times. However, faith is simply taking God at His word and acting on that. To put our faith in God’s protection is to make a decision to trust that resurrection life is real, and to change our priorities from pleasing ourselves to pleasing the God who loves us.

The current pandemic brings up all kinds of conversations about health and security, as well as about the people who are “supposed” to guarantee it for us. Have you thought about how that kind of conversation could help someone else find their security in God, rather than in people? Why not take some time to think through what you might say when the topic next comes up!

We want perfection

Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Jesus announced good news to the world – and that good news was that “the Kingdom of God is near”. This is one of a series of posts about ways in which our society is longing for the Kingdom of God, although it doesn’t realise it yet. My hope is that they will provide a basis for conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours – and perhaps a gentle provocation to some readers who do not follow Jesus, too. You can see the original post, with links to others in the series, here.

What is the most offensive part of the Gospel to a Western audience? If you’d asked me ten years ago, I’d have been pretty confident that it was the idea of sin – that there was an absolute standard out there with the authority to judge our actions. However, this is shifting – my wife Caroline first noticed this a few years back on an Alpha course, when someone expressed utter disgust at the idea of God forgiving people who had done “really bad things”. Increasingly, society’s issue with Christianity is not simply around the existence of sin, but around the moral validity of forgiveness.

Earlier this week, I read an article reflecting on the #metoo campaign and analysing the apologies (or non-apologies) of the various perpetrators1https://www.in-mind.org/article/sorry-not-sorry-apologies-and-denials-in-the-metoo-movement. It concluded: “Can perpetrators of #MeToo-abuse be forgiven and return to society? At present, the answer to these questions is still unclear … whether such behaviour can be forgiven is uncertain. Indeed, research suggests that some crimes may never be forgiven.”

The question is further complicated by the passage of time – should someone be held to account for something they said thirty years ago? Should someone be judged by today’s standards for what they did under historic social norms?2This article provides some interesting food for thought on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Virginia_political_crisis However, the answer is coming back increasingly clearly – the passage of time is not a get-out, and different historic norms of attitude and behaviour do not offer a valid excuse.

The fact is this: society today demands perfection. This is not only on major moral issues such as sexual abuse and racism – the national debate over Brexit led not only to division between factions, but also to unprecedented levels of personal attacks on people for their association with one camp or another. Student unions have no-platformed people because historically they shared a platform with someone with conservative social opinions. My intent is not to agree or disagree with these attitudes, but simply to highlight a significant shift – whereas before Christians needed to make a case for why all sin should be punishable (the classic morality scale from Hitler to Mother Theresa, asking where the “good enough for heaven” line should be), nowadays that conversation is changing. Instead, the question is, “can people truly be forgiven?”

So what, then, do we do with the truth which we all know deep down and which most try to conceal – the truth that we have all said, done and thought things which would cause many to reject us if they knew? It strikes me that most people in a perfection-demanding society escape censure simply by keeping their heads down and avoiding scrutiny: wind up under scrutiny, and sooner or later you’ll do something or someone will unearth something you did which renders you guilty. This fragile state of affairs – flying under the radar – must surely lead to a high level of inner conflict. Paul described the inability to live up to even our own standards in strong, bitter words:

For what I want to do, I do not do – and what I hate, I do … For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Romans 7

Our society is right – in part, at least. Perfection is the standard, and the passage of time does not wash away guilt. As might be expected, society’s standards of right and wrong do not always line up with God’s standards as revealed in the Scriptures, but the concept stands. Our desire for perfection is a good desire, but combined with a forlorn hope of human self-improvement, it inevitably ends up in a bitter and accusing form: seeing the faults in others and demanding change, while hiding away our own sins. This has been the case ever since the first sin, in which Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake in the garden of Eden, the last place where humans knew perfection. The good news of the Kingdom of God is that there is a genuine, solid hope for perfection ahead: not only a perfect environment, but also perfected humans to inhabit it.

As the pressure increases not only to live faultlessly, but also to have lived faultlessly, there is an opportunity to explain the Good News to people: “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”3C.S. Lewis discussed the validity of God forgiving sins of one human against another in this excellent clip from Mere Christianity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxzuh5Xx5G4&t=582

Have you had a recent conversation with a friend, relative or colleague in which you discussed the failings of a public figure? If so, did you take the easy path of simply agreeing, or did you draw attention to the truth that we all fall short of the mark? And have you ever had a conversation about what is needed for someone to be forgiven? Why not think through how you might explain in conversation the conflict between our desire for perfection and our inability to be perfect ourselves, as well as how you would explain God’s solution.

We want freedom (but also laws)

Deep down you know, in your soul
Love is in control
Oh, if you could find the angel within
Time, time to have faith in your wings
Free, everybody’s free, yeah
In the new day that’s coming
Freedom for all is our destiny

Robert Miles

Jesus announced good news to the world – and that good news was that “the Kingdom of God is near”. This is one of a series of posts about ways in which our society is longing for the Kingdom of God, although it doesn’t realise it yet. My hope is that they will provide a basis for conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours – and perhaps a gentle provocation to some readers who do not follow Jesus, too. You can see the original post, with links to others in the series, here.

The discussion of politics and culture in our world today does not use the same vocabulary as it did even ten years ago, let alone twenty. One particularly noticeable shift is that divides previously described as “left/right” or “conservative/liberal” now tend to be described in terms of “conservative/progressive” – or in some circles, “backward/progressive”. Most cultures have a directional arrow which constitutes the “progress” society is looking for. For decades, “progress” in Western nations was scientific – the advancement of knowledge; in our current time, it has come to mean the removing of historic social and moral boundaries.

The point of this observation is not to critique those social and moral changes, but rather to note that our cultural appetite is for social boundary-breaking. Those who are on the cutting edge of campaigning for the removal of a given boundary or taboo are heroes, but when the goal is accomplished they cannot rest on that, but are required to continue to push boundaries in order to be accepted – you have only to look at the cultural fate of Germaine Greer to see this in action. This illustrates the fact that our culture values the act of breaking norms and removing boundaries over the value of what is achieved by those actions.

At the same time, we are legislating at a faster rate than ever – I remember a conversation with a lawyer who explained that the pace of legislation was such that legal draughtsmen struggle to keep up, and consequently draft laws that are difficult to enforce. Why is it that we want to do away with past norms and laws, and yet we create even more laws at an unsustainable pace?

Scripturally, rebellion has been a human problem since the first sin, back in Genesis. However, there’s something else at play here too. Some of the difficulty that teenagers have relating to parental rules is that they know that they’re transitioning to a place of greater responsibility, in which they are liable for their own actions, and free to make their own successes and mistakes. Scripture shows us that we, too, were created not for laws but for loving relationship. The letter to the Galatians teaches:

Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

Galatians 3:23-24 (The Message paraphrase)

We were made to do right out of a place of love and faith, not because the law required it of us. There is something of this instinct in current culture, too – we don’t only want people to behave rightly, we want them to think rightly. So cultural campaigns try to win hearts and minds – but in case that fails, they also campaign for legislation to make it illegal to publicly disagree.

The missing piece in all of this is that the human heart is inherently corrupt. Progressive humanism operates on the basis that humans are either basically good, or at least morally neutral – and that if we can improve our thinking and our conditions sufficiently, human utopia is possible – just take a look at the opening quotation, taken from a 90s pop song. The constant need to enforce these improvements with laws points to the truth being quite the opposite: in its natural condition, without enforced boundaries, humanity is self-destructive and greedy, and needs to be controlled.

The solution to this is regeneration, or being born again. Paul explains that while we start life enslaved to sin, when we turn to Christ and are filled with His Spirit, we are dead to that old state of affairs, and alive to a new way of living. Before, our hearts were drawn to sin and occasionally we managed to salvage a semi-noble act from them; now, our hearts are drawn to God, but we occasionally slip or rebel.

This is the Kingdom of God which Jesus introduces – one in which our default attitude and behaviour changes. In His Kingdom, laws can be rendered unnecessary by a change of heart: we don’t need to be told not to stab someone if we leave the house with an armload of gifts to distribute. We won’t cross that line, because we’re running in the opposite direction. If we grasp the meaning of the Good Samaritan, of “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself”, then we end up where Jesus does in the sermon on the mount: “you have heard it said ‘do not murder’; but I say to you don’t even get angry with your brother … you’ve heard it said ‘do not commit adultery’; but I say to you don’t even look lustfully at a woman.” This is possible – but only if we ask God to make us new, and to fill us with His Spirit.

In a recent conversation, a neighbour of mine said, “I’d thought when I moved to the charitable sector that everyone would be noble and altruistic, but there’s the same ladder-climbing and politics as you’d find in a corporation.” Have you ever had conversations like this around whether humans are inherently good? How might you explain to someone what difference it makes to be born again?

We want justice

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

Jesus announced good news to the world – and that good news was that “the Kingdom of God is near”. This is one of a series of posts about ways in which our society is longing for the Kingdom of God, although it doesn’t realise it yet. My hope is that they will provide a basis for conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours – and perhaps a gentle provocation to some readers who do not follow Jesus, too. You can see the original post, with links to others in the series, here.

Global justice movements have gathered unprecedented pace and momentum in the last decade – movements for equal pay, against discrimination and human trafficking. Additionally, campaigns which have been around for longer such as the fight against global warming have been reinterpreted through this lens – in this generation, we don’t want to “save the planet”, we want “climate justice”. However, we have built a society that is deeply unjust, and sometimes the attempts to unpick it are overwhelming. The computer that I’m typing on at the moment may well contain components made by workers in unsafe conditions; the food we buy and the clothes we wear are consumer choices that often perpetuate injustice elsewhere in the world. If we borrow money to buy a house – as almost anyone buying will need to do – are we contributing to a system where only the rich can afford to live securely? And will the bank we borrow from invest its profits in companies that manufacture arms and sell them irresponsibly? We long for justice, but it seems that the total reset that’s needed is beyond our best efforts.

The answer is the Kingdom of God! That’s not to say that Christians live perfectly in this regard – far from it. However, one key foundation of the Christian faith is that God works in us to transform not only our behaviour, but also our desires. What would it look like for whole swathes of people throughout every section of society and in every nation to undergo this transformation? Then, to use the words of the prophet Amos, justice would roll on like a river – righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Why can this not happen through secular global movements? Avaaz.org claims a membership of 62 million people; 6 million people worldwide joined in “climate strikes” last year; blue-chip companies now pay their auditors for “sustainability audits” in response to public opinion – surely there is global momentum for justice? The trouble is – we don’t all agree on what justice is. This is seen most clearly in the “clashes of rights” that come to the fore every now and again. We could look at the Birmingham protests, where Muslims objected to the diversity curriculum – we want justice against homophobia and transphobia, but we also want justice against Islamophobia, so which one wins out? Pornography objectifies women, teaches objectification, and often exploits trafficked women; but surely women have the right to do what they want with their bodies and men have the right to consume what they want so long as no children are involved?1Just in case it’s unclear, I’m reporting society’s attitude here, not stating my own!

This clash becomes even more stark when it comes to the unborn. Lord Shinkwin, commenting on the recent discussion of his abortion disability bill, stated, “What I don’t understand is how after birth I can be good enough for the Prime Minister and the Queen to send me to the House of Lords but before birth I’m only good enough for the incinerator. I’m part of a group of people with congenital conditions that is being systematically killed.” He and others have regularly pointed out the inconsistencies of our approach to justice: take for instance two babies, conceived on the same day and with the same genetic disability. One is born two days before the other, and it is not only treated as a fully human life to be protected, but is further shielded by additional anti-discrimination legislation; on the same day, the other child can legally be killed simply because it is still inside its mother’s womb. This arises because of conflicting ideas of justice, and whose rights matter most.

Lord Shinkwin, who has championed the rights of unborn disabled babies

There is an answer to these clashes, and I wonder if our society might nearly be ready for it. It focuses on laying down our own rights, and standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves. So much of what divides society stems from our concern for ourselves – our benefit, our rights. Look at how divisive debates such as the one around Brexit took place in the public arena: almost all of the campaigning and slogans were about which decision would make life better for me – which would offer me better economic stability, better opportunities, more freedom. However justice-minded we may be, there is a strong leaning towards wanting justice for ourselves first, and many people would trace all our human evils back to this intrinsic self-centredness.

It is not only a question of laying down rights, however – we will also need to adopt a universal standard. The only way through for a relativistic society will be to adopt an unchanging, objective standard; the only one qualified to set such a standard is the God who made us – anything else involves one group of people claiming the moral high ground with no basis for their claim. This will undoubtedly be uncomfortable for many, as it involves laying down our own right to decide what’s good and what’s evil; it involves acknowledging that God is in charge.

Thankfully, God is not simply a God who gives rules and laws: He changes hearts. If we really want to see justice in our generation – and if we are willing to lay down self-determination and accept God’s rule over us – He will set to work on our hearts, soften away the selfishness, and help us to live lives that are truly motivated by a love for others. And that is not a forlorn hope, but rather a truth with millennia of changed lives as proof.

Do you have friends or neighbours who are strongly motivated by social justice issues? Have you spoken with them about how the Kingdom of God is one of justice? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section!

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
    let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Psalm 97:1-2

A Nation at Tipping Point?

There is fashion, there is fad,
Some is good, some is bad.
And the joke is rather sad:
That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating…

Propellorheads / Shirley Bassey

The Old Testament is more than a collection of historical records, poems and provocations – it recounts in detail, and from many different viewpoints, a very long story of God dealings with people – and in particular with one nation, through whom He revealed to the wider world what He is like.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelite nation go through repeating cycles: God delivers them from oppression and they live gratefully for a while, but then they turn away and start to live their own way. God protects them from the consequences for a while, and warns them that life doesn’t work that way, but when they persist, He withdraws that protection and lets them see what it’s like to live without His constant blessing. They start to experience difficulties, society breaks down, foreign relations become aggressive, and inevitably they end up oppressed by their own despot or by another nation. Finally, they reach a tipping point where their distress is greater than their pride, and they call out to God – and He rescues them. They live gratefully for a while, but then … well, you get the picture.

Why mention this now? Well, looking around at our situation in the UK, I believe that we are nearing that tipping point. Why? Firstly, as Pete Grieg has written1See this article on Premier’s website, there are signs that people are reaching out to God in this time: church attendance is increasing, many are praying for the first time, and songs such as “The Blessing” are being watched by hundreds of new people with each passing minute. However, this is also against a backdrop in which people are deeply longing for change – and much of that change they long for is really the Kingdom of God.

Much of the change that people are longing for is really the Kingdom of God.

That’s a bold statement to make! If at the end of 2019 you’d made the claim that the rapid social change we were witnessing was really a longing for more of God, I think most would have dismissed it. As our fronts of self-confidence are stripped away in this time of Coronavirus, I think we’re seeing that it’s true. Below, I’ve listed off some ways in which I think our society is longing for the Kingdom of God. None is without their problems for society – in each area, the Kingdom goes far beyond what humans hope for, but it also challenges our standards and motivations.

Within our society, there is a mix of desires. We can be quick to point out the ones that are “fallen” (that is: hostile to God); but even in our fallen state, we carry something of the image of God, and we desire good and right things, too. Could those “right desires” be pointers to faith for people we know? My hope is that these posts will provide a basis for conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours – and perhaps a gentle provocation to some readers who do not follow Jesus, too! And along with all this, let it push us to prayer. Our nation needs to experience the Kingdom of God!