When my kids were little, we watched VHS videos with cheesy songs about animals, sports, feelings, and the like. Let’s just say none of them would ever win a Tony. I remember one, “Opposite Day”, about doing things backwards all day long: putting clothes on backward, eating dinner for breakfast, walking backward. My kids loved it; every once in a while they would declare “opposite day” and do as many things backward as they could. It might have had something to do with the fact that their mom is fiercely dedicated to routine.
Here’s the thing: as Christ-followers, we live in Opposite Day. Being part of the Kingdom of God means we have embraced a theology which declares things around us are not as they seem. Our grasp of Biblical understanding shows us that the wisdom of God almost always runs contrary to the wisdom of our culture. We’ve chosen to not be surprised by this. We’ve chosen to understand that God’s kingdom – the spiritual world –is the “realest real.”
It’s hard going sometimes. I live next to a farm field, and my daily view right now is of half-rotten, dirty beige stalks left over from last year’s crop. There’s nothing of value out there in that field because the farmer hasn’t planted yet. There’s no treasure that I know of. Yet this is the image Jesus uses to describe the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13:44: like a treasure hidden in a field. Hidden, underground, secret and dark, just waiting to be discovered by those who have eyes to see.
Our culture leaves no room for hidden things. What it values – beauty, power, athletic accomplishment, wealth – it puts on a pedestal.
For the most part, God keeps His valuables hidden. Here’s how to find them: do the opposite of what the world does. Love the opposite of how the world loves. Value the opposite of what the world values.
I read about a scientist who bore a child with Down syndrome in 1961. Instead of taking their son home, she and her scientist husband immediately sent him to an institution to raise him. “If I at that time would know I was carrying a Down syndrome child – I would have aborted (him),” she says. Thwarted in their right to have a “normal” baby, these parents spent their lives creating a prenatal blood test to identify genetic markers like Down’s. Although her son is a happy person and has lived a full life under the circumstances, “I see no reason (he) has to live the life he leads,” his mother says. “The fact that we’ve made it very happy for him or that he’s made it happy for us… I don’t think it’s fair or proper”.
My heart constricts at this, and I can barely breathe: they would have aborted their child if they’d known his condition. He didn’t measure up; he’s been worthless to them. The world says we have value when we accomplish things. It says we have value when we are the smartest or fastest or wealthiest, and their child was none of these.
Here is what the Bible says: God knows every person before he or she even exists in the womb (Ps. 139). God is impartial toward every person, ascribing equal value to all (James 2). God breathed life into our first parent, Adam, and has breathed life into every person born since. If we have breath in our lungs, we have value. Whether we are a Down’s baby or our brains are riddled with Alzheimer’s or our muscles ineffective from Lou Gehrig’s, we have value because God has breathed His breath into us.
The world says value is found in the perfect, but the image of God is on glorious display in the broken. The image of God is stamped on Down’s babies and quadriplegics and Alzheimer’s patients and Lou Gehrig’s sufferers just like it was stamped on the broken body of Jesus on a splinter-infested cross.
The ultimate Opposite of the Kingdom is this: death upended by life. Someday all that’s backward in this world will be upended when we all get a good look at Jesus Himself, returned in glory. Suddenly everything will make the realest sense. The first will be last, and the weak, the broken, the forgotten of this world – will take their place gloriously at the front. And they will be the most whole.
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