Friday, April 12, 2013

Life Reversed

Ever read something in Scripture and just think "that's weird" or "that's crazy"? You may have been reading something containing Reversal Theme. My limited understanding of Reversal Theme in Scripture renders this type of definition: something gets reversed. I realize that was a lot of build up for the most obvious definition ever, but the ramifications of it are profound to me. The first shall be last and the last shall be first, David (teenager) kills a giant with a single stone, Paul's conversion story (any conversion story really), all of these things are the opposite of what someone would expect when reading.

Everything about Reversal Theme calls for radical living because it goes against everything this world stands for. When you look at Matthew 5, Jesus is preaching "the good news" to the weak, the sick, and the poor. The very first words out of his mouth are "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." That's pretty trippy. That's not even the weirdest part though. In verse 12, Jesus says "Blessed are you when others revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." Now that's just plain crazy. There's much more crazy stuff that Jesus said - turning the other cheek, loving your enemies - that stuff sounds good...but it really doesn't work. Somehow we fooled ourselves into thinking that whenever we do what is right when other people do wrong to us, they become magically paralyzed and can't do harm anymore. Sometimes, that's true, the suffering stops at least for a little bit. However, Jesus didn't say "blessed are you when you are persecuted for 5 seconds and the other person feels bad and stops".

Fact of the matter is, the way of Jesus doesn't worldly standards anyway (for an interesting read, try out I heard a series of lessons this past semester (talking about Matthew 5 actually) in which one of the key assertions was that the world is flipped upside down. Things aren't the way they should be and Jesus set the example of living right side up. In part, I agree with this. The only thing I would change is this: The world is the way it is, pretty much has been since we got ourselves kicked out of the garden, and so living "right side up" is going to be opposite of the way things are, and so it's going to be received as more upside down than right side up. We shouldn't expect it to be all "blue skies and rainbows", because it's not going to be. Living reversed is going to be tough, and quite frankly pretty janky by worldly standards. Stop and think for a minute about how successful Jesus would be at almost any line of work today. He was the son of God and couldn't even make it as a preacher for more than 3 years - the religious leaders of the day wanted Him dead. Jesus's way doesn't work. Will you still do it His way?

I remember how big the WWJD thing was when I was growing up. The concept seemed to really take a prominent foothold in the Christian community with a book called In His Steps. This book is rather out of date, but the concept has remained as is evidenced by the WWJD bracelets, The Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, and other figures and movements. In His Steps did something pretty cool for the day though, it presented the idea "What would happen if for one year only you asked the question "what would Jesus do?" before every action and decision you made and then acted accordingly. What's cooler is that not every character ended up ahead, they in fact had to make some pretty tough decisions and had to take "cuts" in one way or another.

Fact of the matter is, following Jesus's footsteps closely does not lead to places that are easy to go. It essentially leads to a cross. Jesus overcame the grave, but He didn't do so on His way to it. Living life reversed has within it the idea that you are going the opposite way of everyone else in the world; we should expect some resistance.

We have hope, not that this life is going to be peaches and cream, but in the ultimate form of reversal: Resurrection. Something I forget sometimes is that I have hope, not just in Jesus's resurrection, but in my own as well. Living for God now means life with Him forever later. So I try do my best to not get scared at the idea of suffering here on earth, because I have hope that living reversed here will produce reversal of my inevitable death.

Some would call God unfaithful when they go through tragedy, but need I remind them of the cross? That event shows our Savior's faithfulness. One of the best explanations for why we suffer and why Christ is still faithful came to me from a youth ministry book called The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. The quote reads, "...Jesus isn't magic. Jesus is human. Jesus is the very incarnation of God; He's God with us - to bring us not magic but accompaniment, not "healing"...but salvation...any healing that is more than a temporary solution - that is, in other words, transformation...demands deep accompaniment. It demands that another enter into my world and bear my suffering, not to magically take it away but to die with me if needed...The cross reveals this Jesus: not a magical one but a suffering one, not a God who takes away pain but a God who joins us in it." That's the savior we have. I'd rather have Him.

So what am I asking of you dear reader? Live a life reversed by the power of the cross. Realize what you signed up for at your baptism is not an easy life, but one that has great reward. The church has always tended to reflect the culture around us, sometimes that's ok, but truly living reversed is going to mean living vastly different than the world (and seems to be getting even more different as time goes on). Get in your Bible and see what living reversed is all about (Matthew 5 is a great place to start). Speaking of Matthew, remember how I said Jesus was teaching "the good news" to the sick and the poor? Whenever the gospels talk about "the good news", it is almost always related to the idea of God's reign.  When you think of the crowd Jesus had and His first words: "blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God". Jesus essentially tells his crowd that he knows they are marginalized, but when God reigns...they're blessed. Things change when God reigns in a person's life, the weak are made strong, the poor are made rich, the first are made last and the last are made first. But that's by God's standards, not the world's.

Let God reign in your life and let your life be reversed. And as we seek to reach out to others with "the good news", let us remember to be Jesus to them and join them in their suffering, showing them the love of Christ and how they can be changed by God's reign in their life.

I'd love to hear stories of how you are living out life reversed. Something I've started doing and a few have picked up on (in the twitter world) is the use of the hashtag #LiveLifeReversed. Show a messed up world what it means to truly live a life that has been reversed, one that was dead in sin and now is alive in Christ.

Grace and Peace to you all.


  1. Dude, great post with some great thoughts! Such a challenging way to even think about living yet it is what Jesus calls for in everyone.

  2. Your last quote of Mt. 5:3 included "the poor in Spirit." While usually translated "the poor in spirit," it can be translated as "the poor in the Spirit." In Mt. 3-4, Jesus is anointed as the new king (of the new kingdom of heaven) at his baptism, when the Spirit descends from heaven on him; the Spirit then leads him into the desert to suffer hunger and face temptations of greed and power, and becoming like the kings of the earth. He refuses, and tells his disciples, "Blessed are the poor in the Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

    1. Very interesting, so what effect(s), if any, would you say that has on this topic/conversation?

  3. The Christian "reversal" is about God's reign in one's life, when a disciple of Jesus is in the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit Jesus gives in order to live according to the new righteousness of Jesus' kingdom (of disciples). This reversal includes abandoning the world's focus on "upward mobility," and embracing "downward mobility;" rather than seeking better earthly things like the best food or drink, or most expensive clothing (or cars or houses), the Spirit produces the fruit of a love that sells treasured possessions, and no longer stores up treasures on earth, but gives generously to others who are even more destitute (leading one to become more poor than rich, in earthly things).