Turning the World Upside Down
The cross of Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian faith. But what is it that makes the cross so incredibly important and earth shaking? It is on the cross that God displays humility, suffering, and trials as the means of transforming sin into redemption. On the cross, Jesus encounters 1) Physical Suffering, 2) Moral Weakness, 3) Social Shame, 4) Relational Abandonment. Each of these aspects of trial bring about the assurance of God’s presence in our own humble circumstances. Not only is God present in these four kinds of suffering, but it is these trials which bring into the world the expression of redemption and God’s kingdom righteousness. Jesus plead with God in the garden “Let this cup pass from me.” Yet Jesus understood that it was only through suffering and trials that the Kingdom could come and the salvation of the children of God be assured.
As we begin to step out in faith to express this same righteousness to the world, we should expect these same four elements of suffering to come upon us. These are blessings from God which enable us to join with Jesus in his sufferings and so present to the world the goodness of God in a fallen reality. These elements of trial should also help us to understand how God wants his Kingdom to come. As noted above, Micah 6:8 commands us to “walk humbly with our God”. But what does that mean? How does that look in our differing contexts? Once again Jesus gives us a template through his temptations in the desert.
The basic principle at play in the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4 is the rejecting of human power as the means of Kingdom advancement. Satan comes to Jesus and tempts him to embrace power in three separate forms, eating bread, displaying power, and avoiding suffering. Jesus gives us three examples of how to walk humbly with God. 1) Rejecting Economic Power, Walking in Need. “Man shall not live by bread alone” claims Jesus in response to the temptation to use his power for economic gain. Walking in practical, physical need is part of the humble way. 2) Rejecting Religious Power, Walking in Communion. Satan takes Jesus to the top of the temple and suggests he fulfill the Messianic expectation of power by jumping from the pinnacle. This religious power was available to Jesus, yet he refuses saying not to “put the Lord to the test”. He chooses instead to walk in simple communion with God and in communion with a small group of disciples. 3) Rejecting Political Power, Walking in Suffering. Satan finally demands Jesus’ worship in exchange for all the nations of the world. The temptation here, is that Jesus will bypass the cross and attain the thing that God has sent him to receive. It is easy to see the temptation of bypassing suffering in ministry to the poor, but still being able to minister to the poor. We are tempted to approach ministry from a position of strength. Yet, Jesus refuses and commands Satan to depart. Jesus walked the way of trials and humble circumstances and his principles give us guidance for our own discipleship along that same path.
Read more from New City Fellowship in St. Louis!
Listen to a talk on humble circumstances from the 2013 Reconciliation and Justice Conference!