Journey: Upside Down

Read:  “A New Identity”

With laser-beam clarity and power, McLaren shows how counter-cultural Jesus was from the outset of his ministry.  The Beatitudes–those seemingly benign invitations to godly happiness–first pierced the egoic balloons of those who thought they could have “God and country” with little or no disruption of their civic and ecclesial status quos.

And by the end of his chapter it’s clear that things have not changed all that much since Jesus preached his inaugural sermon on the hillside just outside Capernaum nearly two thousand years ago.  We still want a blend of cultural religiosity that leaves us inspired but unchanged. 

We still head out to find a “Jesus” (or preacher) who will make “being comfortable” in churches with folks like ourselves the essence of the Gospel and the goal of discipleship. And if we can download our version of the gospel (notice the shift to a small “g”), to our favorite dark-monied political party, all the better.

But the real, incarnate Christ will have none of it.  He even speaks of happiness in ways that shred our charades of it, but miraculously offer us abundant life at the same time. Jesus turns everything upside down–or so we think.  But we forget that it was the Fall in Genesis 3 when the world was turned upside down by sin.  When Jesus turned it upside down the second time, he was actually turning it rightside up!

A walk with Jesus (to quote Clint Eastwood) turns us every which way but loose.  And those who demand status-quo spirituality will always walk away (John 6:66) and re-up their membership in versions of faith that never require us to adopt a new identity.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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