As I work through the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, the themes seem to be that Jesus comes to save all, Jews and Gentiles alike, and that his reign (romanticized in modern thought as “the peaceable kingdom”) will be marked by peace and harmony. In other words, it will be radically different from the world as we know it.
I’ve just finished reading Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines, which is about how the spiritual disciplines (prayer, solitude, service, etc.) help us live out our faith. The vision of the peaceable kingdom isn’t a major theme in Willard’s book, but he does discuss it as the logical next step in our growth as followers of Jesus. If we follow Jesus and adopt his values as our own, the world will change radically for the better. Instead of a society which resorts almost automatically to violence and coercion, society will look more like heaven.
Willard also says that it’s not logical for us to expect anything other than more of the same in our world until we do this. It’s a jarring reminder that things aren’t going to get better until people get better. Simple idea, but easy to forget in our dreams of a better day. That day won’t come from better government policy, more able leaders, better weather, advances in scientific knowledge, economic growth, or superficial trends in human interaction. It will come from the surrender to God that John the Baptist calls for on the banks of the Jordan when he says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2)