Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were considering the call the Jesus gave to the first disciples to be His followers in turning the world upside down. Our sermon “Fishy Business” can be found here. This weeks lesson, from Luke 6:17-26, goes into the details of how Jesus saw that radical transformation taking place.
Have you ever seen people get something they didn’t deserve—while someone else didn’t get what they did deserve? Ever seen the right person passed over for a job, just because they “played the game,” or were a particular gender, or lied? Ever see people succeed even more because they were already successful? Ever seen a poor or vulnerable person slip even further into difficulty—or get picked on by someone who should know better?
There are so many power structures which seem to reward all the wrong people. “It’s the way of the world,” you might say, and that may well be true. But it’s not the way of the Kingdom of God.We know this because Jesus made the point, again and again. Not only did He confront those who maintained the power structures and attitudes of the day, but He also lived out what’s called the “Great reversal”—turning inside out and upside-down people’s values and understandings about who mattered and what success was and who God wanted to bless.
Here was a man who spent time with society’s “worst” outcasts: the lepers, the mentally ill, the crooks, the prostitutes, the adulterers. A man who talked endlessly about the poor, and about children and widows. Who didn’t invite Himself into the homes of the rich and famous, but the hated tax collectors.
No wonder people around Jesus were confused! Those who were willing to listen to Jesus and think about what He said and did, began to understand that the Kingdom of God isn’t like the world at all. They started to see that it’s the poor, downtrodden and vulnerable who are particularly of interest to God (until then, it was assumed that these people must be being punished by God).
It is those who see themselves as successful (by worldly reckoning) who struggle to accept this reversal, as did the rich young man in the Bible—who wanted to follow Jesus, but couldn’t give up his material wealth. Jesus Himself said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
In the Kingdom of God everything will be turned inside out and upside down. This is especially true when it comes to power, privilege and wealth... in God's Kingdom those who struggle in life now, those who are at the bottom or on the edges of human society, will suddenly find themselves at the top and in the center.
So if you’ve ever been vulnerable, or struggled, or seen others rewarded for doing wrong, remember that it’s not Jesus’ way. There is a special place in God's heart for you.
For some music, a modern version of a classic hymn, “Near to the Heart of God.”
(Parts of this article adapted from Church of England Website “Church in the Net”)
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.