Today’s Bible reading
“Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you.
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort already.
“Woe to you who are well satisfied with food now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” — Luke 6:20-36
More thoughts for meditation
Jesus’ kingdom is both counterintuitive and countercultural to most people. To ease the misunderstanding, some have even called it “The Upside-down Kingdom.” It’s upside down because it isn’t what anybody expects. Jesus was aware that he was “turning the world upside-down” (Acts 17:6).
Throughout the Bible there is a stark contrast between the “kingdoms of this world” and the “kingdom of God.” Jesus actually said “my kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world” (John 18:36). What is that all about?
First of all, this scene where Jesus speaks to Pilate (definitely a representative of THE kingdom of this world), is one of the places where the Lord claims his authority — that he has a kingdom and is claiming to be a king.
Secondly, this scene reveals that Jesus’ kingdom has an upside-down power structure. The things we dream about and the things Jesus’ first followers dreamed about: justice, love, companionship, meaningful work are all achieved through different means than the ways of the “kingdoms of this world.” The ways of the world are little more than a seesaw of power-over and power-under structures where some are perceived as superior and others as inferior, some dominators and others victims.
The way of Jesus is power within. While the U.S. might declare that all men, then maybe women and non-white people are created equal, the grace of God is the true equalizer and the service of God in community is the best way to experience that. We have a cloudy view of this reality, but we keep trying to understand it. Here is Tim Keller, a Christian apologist, speaking on the difference between the two kingdoms at length. Or read Jonny Rashind’s review of The Upside-down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill. Or watch this Bible Project video for a well-done animated summary of the good news of the kingdom of God, here.
Suggestions for action
There is a major difference between the lives of those living in these two kingdoms. Thankfully, those seeking Christ’s kingdom are not alone and are given God’s Spirit to guide us. The prompting of the Spirit of God might feel upside down, at first, too. You might be prompted to give all your possessions away! — it has happened before.
“Following the Spirit is risky business, calm seas do not make good sailors.” — Circle of Hope’s Proverbs. But follow that inspiration anyway and bring your experience back to your cell or closer community for discernment.
Pray Spirit, may I receive your promptings today with an open heart, and with joy.