Have you noticed how, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), Jesus turns our thinking about spirituality upside down?
It is not the rich, but the poor and the weak who receive the Kingdom of God. It is not the well fed and comfortable, but the hungry who will ultimately be satisfied. It is not those who are happy and gloat, but those who weep that will laugh. And it is not those who are well spoken, but those who are hated, excluded and insulted that will ultimately be recognised by God.
John Stott, the British, theologian, suggests the Sermon on the Mount describes what human life and community looks like when they come under the gracious rule of God. But living in our individualistic, consumer driven Western society and living in affluent Australia (by world standards) such a reversal of values is difficult for us to really understand and comprehend.
In his book, Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey includes a chapter on Mahatma Gandhi. He notes that while Gandhi was not a Christian, he modelled his life on the principles of the Sermon on the Mount and in doing so managed to change the world. He suggests we all have something to learn from Gandhi and makes the point that Gandhi, a Hindu, took the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount more seriously than do 99 per cent of Christians.
An upside down lifestyle
In many ways Christians today have adopted worldly goals and ideals and abandoned the way of Christ. While the world values knowledge, power and certainty, Jesus values weakness and emptiness. While our community is oriented to what can be measured and seen, our orientation is to the unseen world.
But Jesus calls us to a different lifestyle. He calls us to take up his yoke, to wash each other’s feet, and to take up our cross. Rather than pander to an image-obsessed world with its focus on wealth, success, athletic prowess and beauty, Jesus calls us to turn our values upside-down. God’s ways do not operate on the rules of logic and fairness appealing to human rationality; rather they are based upon the love of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges our thinking and reasoning.
As you reflect and pray about the life God wants you to live, remember to direct your thinking back to the teachings of Jesus. Pray that God will help you to engage with them, and allow him effect change in your everyday life, even if it appears to be upside down change!
Stephen L Baxter