08 January, 2008

Thy Will Be Done

Sure, yeah, we all want God's will to be done, but what is it?

The question has often been reduced to, "Should I break up with Sally and go steady with Jane," but that ain't what was on God's only Son's mind when He taught us to pray. Once I even read a post on a popular site insisting the will of God was:

1Th 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

With answers like that, who needs questions? The attitude that allows an answer like that reminds me of another verse:

Pro 25:20 [As] he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, [and as] vinegar upon nitre, so [is] he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

Saying "cheer up" to the weeping is always, always, always cruel.

But I'm way off topic now. When we talk about the will of God, that tends to happen because we just don't know what it is. God wills our sanctification, our deliverance, our steadfastness, our transformation, our thankfulness, and that Paul should be an apostle. But none of that is "God's will."

The Romans had a name for "the father" of every household. He was the "pater familias," Father of the Family. The Jewish family was set up in a reasonably similar way, though the Jewish father lacked the power of life and death a pater familias had.

Since Jesus started His teaching prayer with the words, "Our Father..." it seems appropriate to focus on the pater familias.

The family of that day was the primary economic unit. There were not companies. There were families. And the pater familias was in charge of that economic operation. He brought into the family new sons in law, faithful servants, his own sons, and hirelings as needed toward the goal of building the business. He had the power to decide what and when to buy and sell to ensure the family for whom he was responsible lived in comfort.

Review the parables Jesus told, and you will recognize this pattern over and over. Jesus likens His Father to a pater familias repeatedly.

The pater familias was responsible to keep his family disciplined, profitable, and healthy. Therefore, it was his greatest honor to find evidence in the world around him that his family, his business, was run with excellence. To that end, he required of his family that they be honest, diligent, responsible, forward thinking, and thankful for what he provided.

That list, if you didn't notice, looks a lot like the list of things you'll find required of us by scripture.

The will of our Father in heaven is nothing less than that the world would look on His family and see honesty, diligence, responsibility, forward thinking, and thankfulness. He wants to see His church honoring His legacy on Earth by defining it.

The purpose of Christians is not to make more Christians. Yes, that must happen, but it is not "the" will of God. The purpose of Christians is to profit the business of our Father in heaven, and that happens because ALL the gifts are exercised in the church. Not just evangelism, but helps and care and the greatest of these is love.

And if it's not just evangelism, then it's not just evangelists and pastors and elders who are needed. It's every member of the body. Someone has to pluck weeds, and someone has to grind wheat, and someone has to carry loaves to market. Someone has to cook casseroles, and someone has to comfort the grieving, and someone has to notice when people are feeling down.

The will of God is that His church be the most wholly, actively loving family on Earth, and that requires you. When you are choosing a church, make sure you are choosing the place where you can contribute the most to your Father's goals. In the end, you'll both be happier.

Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

Kruse Kronicles' Household of God Series
NT Wright's New Testament and the People of God

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