The Upside-Down World
When we decide to follow Jesus we may not know what we are signing up for or where He will be leading us! We may think that life will be “business as usual”, but we will have to think again! Because Jesus is full of surprises and if we belong to Him He will want us to leave our world behind and be a part of His world – an upside-down world!
He has amazing places to take us but in order to go there with Him we will have to be willing to let go of some things. Things? What kind of things you ask? Well, things like money! Scripture says that “We cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13) Not that money isn’t important but it should be in second place – or third or tenth place to our allegiance to God. God wants to be first in our lives.
And then our self respect. Surely we should not ever be expected to let go of that! But then Scripture says: “When you are hit on one cheek to turn the other cheek.” (Matthew 5:39) Does that make sense or not? It’s an upside down world we have been born again into and we have to leave a lot behind to fit into it. The Holy Spirit is there to help us but sometimes it is a stretch!
The Bible tells us that during His time on earth Jesus was tempted by Satan. One of these temptations occurred when Satan offered Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him. Let’s read it in the Bible. “The devil took Jesus up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And Satan said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to Satan, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)
Jesus turns His back on the worldly power that Satan is offering Him and insists that all of His worship will always be only for God no matter what. Jesus rejects the glitter and the fame and the power that this world has to offer – the worldly power that is influenced by Satan: He rejects all of it for another world or kingdom that is not of this world. (John 18:36)
We also may be tempted with the same temptation that Satan tempted Jesus with, - the temptation to compromise and give just a little to Satan in order to grasp some of that worldly power and importance that appeals so much to our egos.
We are used to living in this cursed and fallen world – a world where might is right, and a world where we worship our rock stars and our football heroes and our sexy movie stars! A world where we all compete and show off and some win and some lose. There will always be the losers in our world. And in our world the losers fall by the wayside.
Some people don’t make it in this world! Some starve because they have no money for food and some become sick and die because they can’t afford health care. Some feel left out because they are too poor or too insecure or too old. And some have been rejected by society because of their race or their low social status or because they don’t fit in. The orphan and the foreigner and the lame and the deformed- they may feel left out and forgotten in all the bustle of life.
But we are too busy to pay much attention to these nobodies. In every city they are there - the people who don’t make it – the lost and the least – the demented people-and the people on drugs: the forgotten people – and the invisible people. In our world we don’t even see these folk. We walk right by them and if we think about them at all we wonder how they could have thrown away so much of life. Why don’t they just get a job or fix their teeth or wash their clothes? Why aren’t they like us?
But in Jesus’ upside down world things will be different. The folks who missed out in this world will be given first place over there. They may not be important in our world, but they are very important in Gods’ world – the upside down world we are called to be a part of.
Jesus tells the story of the shepherd with one hundred sheep. He counts his sheep and finds that one sheep is missing. Upset he leaves the ninety-nine and rushes out looking for his one lost sheep. He searches all night and finally finds his little missing sheep. And he is so jubilant that he throws a party inviting all of his friends to celebrate with him because he has found his sheep that was lost. In heaven - the upside-down world – lost people (sheep) are important and no one will be left behind!
In Jesus’ new world these people who were last in this world will be first. (Matthew 10:16) Scripture tells about the end of the age when Jesus Christ will come in all His glory with the angels and gather every person who has ever lived on this earth before Him for judgment. He will separate the group as a shepherd divides his sheep from his goats. And the sheep He will set on His right hand and the goats on the left. And we will all be judged by how we treated these people who didn’t make it – these forgotten people.
This is what Jesus the Judge says to the sheep on His right hand. “ “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food: I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger and you took Me in. Naked and you clothed Me. I was sick and you visited Me. I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You. Or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe You?’ … And the King will answer and say to them. In as much as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to
(Matthew 25:34-40) Me.
Then Jesus the Judge will usher the sheep into His kingdom because they cared about the least and the lost while they were on earth. But Jesus will condemn the goats on his left side because they didn’t care for the troubled people on earth but perhaps they took advantage of them.
Scripture says that believers must become like little children in order to enter God’s kingdom. (Matthew 18:1-5) One time when Jesus was on a hillside teaching, his disciples ordered the mothers with little children to stay away from Him. (Matthew 19:13) Perhaps they thought that Jesus was too important to be distracted by noisy children. But Jesus stopped them and insisted that the mothers and children come to Him and then He blessed the children. (Matthew 19:13-15) The Bible holds up little children as examples for us to follow perhaps because children are trusting and humble and they have no social status. And like little children we are to be humble and trust God, our Father.
You may think that it may be difficult to become like “little children” but Jesus Himself sets the example for us to follow. He becomes “the least of these” – the littlest one when He is mocked and beaten and crucified. Treated as a criminal and a threat to the powers of this world –the Roman empire- Jesus is nonviolent and when He is arrested He tells his disciple to put down his sword. (Matthew 26:52-53)
Jesus endured the shame of the cross. And He calls us to follow Him and take up our cross. (Matthew 16:24) He calls us to give up our selfish pride and egotistical privilege and become humble like little children. And He calls us to search for His lost sheep, and care for the powerless among us and to follow Him into His new upside-down world where no one will be left behind.
Some of these ideas were taken from Reta Halteman Finger’s article “Jesus and the Top Secret Empire” in Sojourner’s Magazine , August issue 2013.