Upside-down Kingdom

So, I’m still thinking about Jesus’ approach to this world. He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” He was definite about it. He said it at the most critical moment, the trial, when fighting for his Kingdom with all the power He had at His disposal would have vindicated His claims and saved His life. But He refused. He stayed loyal to the Kingdom that had been His focus, the Kingdom of His Father, where He possessed all the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

That Kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom – a place where truth is counter intuitive to our natural directions. Jesus had been talking about it His whole ministry. One of His first major public messages carried the heart of this upside-down Kingdom, and He expanded that message with His entire ministry. Matthew 5:3-12 records His perspective: words so clear and pertinent they could be spoken today to Christ-followers in our divisive world. It tells us how to respond to criticism, how to see God, how to view the tension between the kingdom of the world and HIS Kingdom.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

If the Kingdom of God, the one to which we belong, is so different than the kingdom of this world, then why are we here? What’s the point? Jesus gives the clearest job description we will ever get:

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:13-15).

Being politically/issue savvy is not the primary goal. Of course we want to be assets to the country in which we live. But our job and loyalty is far bigger. We are citizens of a Kingdom that is not of this world, and living in loyalty to it is both our privilege and responsibility.