I’ve heard it said that Jesus turned the world upside-down. I guess it’s a matter of orientation, but I believe that the Fall in the Garden of Eden turned the world upside-down. The truth is that Jesus was in (and still is in) the business of turning the world right-side up. Let me illustrate with a common example from parenting.
A core teaching that we have with our son is that when he does something wrong toward someone, he is expected to say “I’m sorry”. We have to remind him consistently of this teaching, but it’s something that we value. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this idea, but I wonder where we would be if our relationship with God was dependent on this value.
God chose a people group, the Israelites, to be his “priests” to the world. It was His intention that they would follow God’s ways and be representatives to all nations; that they would also come to know Him and follow Him. The truth is, they took God for granted, they became arrogant about their position, and they disobeyed and expected mercy.
The time came for God to make His decisive move into the world to deal with the sin problem inherent in all humanity. Where does He begin? He goes directly to those Israelites who made a mockery of God for centuries. Jesus comes first for “the lost sheep of Israel”.
Let me illustrate more specifically in the life of Jesus. Jesus is arrested. The beatings, accusations, abuse and ultimate killing come. Where are Jesus’ disciples? They run in fear! They abandon their friend, their teacher, their Savior, the One they’ve come to love over the years. Three days later Jesus rises from the dead. Where does He go? He goes to those same disciples.
The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) While it is true that the guilty party should own up to their crimes, repent, and seek forgiveness. I believe that the power of reconciliation comes when the offended party offers love and forgiveness at their own expense. If this is true in my relationship with God, it must also be true in our relationships with others. Where would I be if God, in Jesus, did not first love me?
Maybe this is another value that I should spend a little more time teaching my son. He should not hold grudges against, seek vengeance on, or distance himself from those who have hurt him. Instead, I want him to reflect Christ in taking the first step of forgiving and loving…even when the person may not see the need to be forgiven.
One of my heroes is a man I was introduced to at a Cornerstone festival in the early 2000’s, John M. Perkins. He grew up in Mississippi and experienced repeated and violent hate. As a young man, he came to know Jesus as Savior through the prompting of his son. Not long after John Perkins became a Christian he felt a call to return to Mississippi. In the early 60’s he was not received well. He was set up and beaten so badly once that he thought he would die. On this occurrence he was taken to jail…he thought it was for his own protection. However, he was beaten more in jail. At one point, as he came to from prolonged unconsciousness, he was forced to mop up his own blood from the jail floor.
I met John Perkins over 30 years after this incident. To this day, his primary ministry is working in cities around the country to promote racial reconciliation. This story, and those like this, gives me chills as I consider the courage it takes to go to your oppressors, at one’s own risk, to seek reconciliation with them as well as their reconciliation to God.
I know this may sound a little backwards to most of us. To even think about offering mercy to those who have been so mean to us. To desire goodness for those who have caused us so much harm. However, maybe we’re the ones who need to get our upside-down selves turned right-side-up by Jesus who rocked our world and is little by little turning this upside-down world, right-side-up!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled,
neither let them be afraid.John 14:27
Categories: Worship in Community