Let's pick up from yesterday's devotional....
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
"Give us today our daily bread" is not a prayer for extravagant living, nor is it a prayer for a life of poverty. "Prosperity Gospel" -- the preaching that everyone's spiritual birthright includes material wealth -- is simply not biblical. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, many early Apostles were not rich in an earthly sense. They all knew lack, went hungry; some shivered in cold prison cells; they were abandoned, neglected, persecuted, and suffered. The prosperity gospel did not apply to them. On the other hand, the Bible does not make poverty a virtue either. Unlike what the mendicant orders (e.g., Franciscans and Dominicans) believe about the virtue of poverty, the Bible itself does not advocate taking vows of poverty for the sake of Christ. God's Kingdom Culture is built around the idea that God provides. He provides our daily needs. God is dependable. And we are asked to depend on God daily. God's Kingdom Culture is not like a retirement fund that we store up. God's Kingdom Culture is a living dependence on the living God who loves us and provides for us.
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors ... For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." The added commentary by Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. Or, saying it slightly different, living in forgiveness is challenging but it's essential that we live this way according to Jesus. God's Kingdom Culture is a culture of grace. An expression of grace is forgiveness. Grace is a gift. Forgiveness is a gift. Forgiveness is not stuck on seeing who's right and who's wrong. Forgiveness implies that we will be wronged by others -- either unintentionally or intentionally. Forgiveness goes beyond the eye-for-an-eye mentality that many of us are prone to. It's not about settling a score. It's about laying down our arms, opening up our fists, and releasing people who have hurt us. To forgive, in short, is to act like God -- the gracious God who forgives our sins. The Kingdom Culture is all about this generous grace. It's all about freedom that comes from living in forgiveness. An unforgiving heart is an enslaved heart. God wants us to live free and where there is freedom there is usually joy and peace.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." God's Kingdom Culture is fully aware of our weakness and the spiritual warfare that is around us. We are not Supermen and Superwomen. Bullets can kill us. Falling into sin can damage us. We are called to be prayerful and watchful. Everyone has a breaking point. We might fall into trials so deep that we would be tempted to be unfaithful to God. This is the content of the petition, "lead us not into temptation." God does not tempt us (in terms of sin); we pray that we escape from trials that would overwhelm and overtake us. Knowing our limitations is good knowledge. Not knowing our limitations is dangerous. "The evil one" is Satan. Although we have authority over demons/fallen angels, we are not called to be foolhardy or ignorant of the dark spiritual realm. The devil is still powerful. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." God's Kingdom Culture is in Conflict with another culture empowered by the evil one. We need to be armed for this spiritual battle. God's Kingdom Culture is not Disney World. "The happiest place on earth" (the real happiest place) comes about by keeping the devil at bay and advancing against the gates of hell. No child's play here. For grownups only. Are you ready?
Let's pray: Father, there are many aspects of your Kingdom Culture -- daily dependence, grace and forgiveness, knowing our weakness, and spiritual conflict. Help us to understand that you are the God Who Provides, you are the God of Grace and Forgiveness (and that you desire for us to be people of grace and forgiveness), you are the God Who Protects and Who Equips us for spiritual battle. As we get to know you more and your culture more, may you help us to internalize the external realities of Who You Are and how we are called to live. In Jesus' name, amen.