I have often heard Christian people referring to the Kingdom of God as an upside-down kingdom.
What arrogance, suggesting that the way we think, the way we do things, our values and norms are the way it should be and it is God who has got it wrong. We glibly talk about the ‘Way of the Cross’ and we think that it can be reduced to regular prayer, Bible reading and church attendance. But to do so is to totally miss the point and undervalue the example that Jesus left us.
The Way of the Cross can only be properly understood – that is, if it can be understood at all – by reference to the life he lived. It was not a life of building wealth, of ‘laying up treasures on earth’, although the example of the Church of England whose assets are said to be something over £4 billion, and the Catholic Church, worth about three times that paltry sum, consigns to the dustbin any notion that these lofty institutions are making any serious attempt to follow in his footsteps. How can that be when over a million people relied on foodbanks in the UK in the last year?
No, Jesus exemplified and taught that the path of descent is the more trustworthy than any upward path, which only tends to feed the ego. But are we likely to listen and learn?
Well let’s try: The authentic spiritual life is all about a life of letting go. This is what Jesus had in mind when he said, ‘…the truth will set you free.’
He wasn’t speaking about freedom from unfair discrimination or of physical incarceration, nor even about freedom from guilt or condemnation. He was speaking about freedom from our fear of loss and death, on his mind was his desire for us to be free from wanting more and better things, his deep longing was for us to let go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. And topping it all is the wonderful freedom from the need to be right.
How wonderful would that be? What a difference that would make to our troubled land if we could learn that the need to be right is an over-rated pastime. Gone would be our insecurities, the need to fly that particular flag in that particular place, or to march down that road on a specific day, or to go to this or this or that church and be attached to the ‘right’ denomination. Surely that is why there are over 30,000 ‘Christian’ denominations, sects and cults on the planet?
In one of his letters recorded for us in the New Testament the Apostle Paul, who most of the time made reference to the Gospel of Grace, or the Gospel of Peace, went on to say that if anyone preached or lived a different Gospel, it was not the true Gospel. Indeed it was said of him that he embodied the Gospel journey from violence to non-violence, wealth to poverty, power to powerlessness, selfishness to selfless service, pride to humility, indifference to love, cruelty to compassion, vengeance to forgiveness, revenge to reconciliation, war to peace and killing enemies to loving enemies. In this regard, perhaps more than any other Christian, Paul epitomised discipleship to Jesus.
We have much to learn in this most religious of all countries, but the revolution can begin in you and me, if the will is there.