Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Upside Down Houses

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Luke 2:34-35

In recent years people have begun building upside down houses as tourist attractions. Of course it requires quite a bit of architectural ingenuity and construction know-how to make the house structurally sound while looking as if it is sitting on its roof. Tables and chairs bolted to a ceiling that looks like a floor. A bed, neatly made, with sheets, covers, and pillows glued in place, all defying gravity and hanging overhead. Imagine what it would be like to really live in a house like this, though. None of the furniture would be usable. Only a few of the appliances would be reachable. Can you even imagine how dangerous ceiling fans would be?!

This is the kind of topsy-turvy image I get in my head when I read Simeon's words in Luke 2. He prophesies that Jesus will cause the rise and fall of many in Israel. He will be opposed and will reveal the condition of people's hearts. Simeon says in essence that Jesus is destined to turn the world upside down. Or more accurately, He will turn the world right side up. 

You see, the world we live in is like those upside down houses. When mankind rejected God and began to worship ourselves and the created order instead of the Creator, we turned the world on its head. Deep in our hearts we all know this to be true. Our world is deeply flawed. Everything is not as it should be, but this is all we have ever known. We are like people who have lived in that upside down house for our whole lives. It is all we know. We get used to it. It makes sense to us. You can imagine how someone like that would react if a person came to set things right... to turn our home right side up again. That's exactly how many people react to Jesus. They think He is turning their world upside down, when in reality He wants to turn it right side up. 

Jesus flipped the societal expectations and order of His day in innumerable ways. And I believe He does the same thing in our hearts. When Jesus begins to work in a person's life, He systematically goes about undoing the perversion of sin in their life. One by one He walks around the little upside down houses that are our hearts and begins turning things right side up. How we respond to Jesus as He challenges our old ways of living reveals the condition of our hearts. Consider for a moment two ways Jesus flipped the script on people in His day, and consider how He may want to do the same today with you.

First, Jesus confronted religion that was merely outward ritual and form, and offered a close relationship with God in its place. He accosted hypocrisy. He attacked profiteers who had turned worship into a marketplace for their own gain. We all have flawed perspectives on God and religion, and Jesus must confront these flawed views. He will not be satisfied with worship that equates to giving God a day here and there, or to performing some outward ritual alone. Jesus wants your whole heart and will offered up to God. You can fight Him all you want, but He won't accept anything less.

Second, Jesus challenged people's views of what success looks like. He taught that the greatest among men ought to make himself the servant of all... and then He lived this truth. He lived it out not only in His life but also in His death. And in so doing He flipped our concept of winning as well. Success isn't about what you accomplish in this life; it's about what you accomplish for the life to come. This perspective is what makes great sacrifice possible for believers. Make no mistake, when you follow a crucified Lord, sacrifice is part of the deal. The good news is that Jesus promises rewards in the next life for all we sacrifice for Him in this life.

Maybe your life has been in upheaval lately. Maybe it feels like God is challenging you or turning your life upside down. It's tempting in those moments to complain. Instead, stop and ask yourself this question, "How might Jesus be using this situation to turn my life right side up?"

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