The Upside-down Kingdom

By Rev. Andy Lay
November 27, 2017

Jesus’ teaching upset the Jewish religious establishment of His day. And it still challenges the typical thinking of our world. It may even challenge some of our thinking as Christians.
Jesus’ teachings in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 are not commands to be obeyed, but an announcement of the principles of the Kingdom of God. Does the Good News He describes express our values as Christians?

Most people think that “good news” announces success, health, wealth, long life, victory in battle, etc. But Jesus teaches that His good news for the humble, the poor, the mourners, the insulted and persecuted is not always in the deliverance from those conditions, but in living victoriously with those conditions.

Other teachings of Jesus that challenge our modern thinking are:

1. How to achieve greatness: Matthew 23:11-12 says the greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

2. How to get salvation: Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember, the Pharisees kept the law meticulously, but Jesus said it wasn’t enough. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.

3. How to treat our enemies: Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

4. How to be rewarded by God for doing good things: Matt 6:1-18 teaches that prayer, giving, fasting must be done in private to be rewarded by God; doing them to “show off” our goodness, destroys any reward from God.

5. How to deal with the cares of this life: We must not worry about this life; focus primarily on God’s Kingdom. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus broke the Judaistic social norms of His day when he touched and healed the “untouchable” leper, Matthew 8:1-4; When he healed the servant of a hated Roman (Gentile) officer, Matthew 8:5-12; When he refused to implement the Law’s penalty of death on the woman taken in adultery, John 8:3-11. In each of these cases Jesus exercised mercy, rather than judgment, on people judged unworthy by the people of His day.

How important it is that we develop our values and our standards of behavior from the teachings of the Bible, rather than from the values and behavior considered “normal” by the world—and maybe even by other Christians around us.

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