Back to basics: the kingdom 2

2015-06.1

Matthew 5:1-4

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Upside-down values

Alice in Wonderland

Jessie Willcox Smith’s 1923 illustration of Alice surrounded by the characters of Wonderland. Rather like Alice, we find ourselves entering into a kingdom where nothing is as we expect it, and doors we thought were closed open up to us – with favour.

ALICE in Wonderland, the 1865 fantasy story by Lewis Carroll, has fascinated adults as well as children from my great-grandparents’ time onwards. It’s a fabulous piece of storytelling but the fascination is in the way nothing in the story appears in the way one would expect.

The genre is called ‘literary nonsense’ because it confronts logic, especially the logic of the Victorian mind at the time it was written, and turns it humorously upside down.

Jesus did this when He explained the coming of the kingdom of God which He represented – a new order where nothing would be the same any more. The accepted rules of culture and society were confronted, and at times ridiculed. The injustices and inevitabilities of that society were also confronted. Man’s way was being upended by God’s way and all the familiar points of reference – rich and poor, powerful or powerless, apparently blessed or apparently cursed – were put under notice to change.

What God decrees, and the way God unfolds His order of things, trumps anything man may have decided.

If you look through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (three chapters) with Luke 6 and the first part of Luke 11 as additional reference, what strikes you as a general impression? Before you say, “This has some hard teaching!” consider how nothing is quite as you would expect – in fact, often the opposite.

If we see it as rules we have to obey, it looks unattainable.

Instead, see it this way – the coming of Jesus, representing kingly rule and order, right into our lives. As Jesus enters in, a lot else gets the hell out together – literally – and we become free to change. Mentioned in relation to this in Luke 11:10-13, the Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to live – live differently. These upside down values become our values by a heart change.

It is an important distinction. To live the Jesus way as commanded is hard, and we count the failures immediately.

To live the Jesus way as ENABLED is like running on a better track, where instead battling the gradient, the gradient keeps us going.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed be those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:3-4).

It doesn’t seem that way in our experience. Poor in spirit, mourning loss? That doesn’t seem like overcoming, it seems like losing – a failure, not a qualification, surely. However, qualification is exactly what it is – we could call it the ‘inverse qualification’. The less you think you are worthy of God, the closer He is to you. It is a true state of blessing because it is the entry gate to His presence.

Mostly, we are so up ourselves that God doesn’t get a look in. We look to God as a last resort, not the first and best option. We think we know best, and we argue for our way against His. But when life breaks us in some area, then we look up to our Father with different eyes, and at that place we become willing to allow Him in.

He would like to bless us in close relationship all the time. The expensive front door of which we are so proud remains arrogantly shut, until under duress and need, it must open – for Jesus to reveal Himself. He was always standing there, ready to bless – if invited in.

It’s true. The poor in spirit and those aware of their need are first up for entry into this new kingdom, and the first to receive its comfort and peace. We face trials and difficulties, and God allows these and uses them to break us from ourself-sufficiency. We can also choose to relate to Him in brokenness and need as well as in a covenant of love.

Into action

• Ask the Holy Spirit to show you an area where you are, as I put it,  ‘up yourself’ and in confidently in charge – and begin to give it to God.

* Choose to acknowledge your need, before you have to! Put to the test this principle of ‘inverse qualification’ as you invite God into blessing relationship in that part of your life.

* Share the need and lack you have given over to God with someone else. What might be their story?

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