The Right-Side-Up Kingdom
“Many who are first will be last, and the last first.”- Mark 10:31
Sin’s entry into the world (Gen. 3) radically reshaped God’s creation. Not only was death introduced into the Lord’s very good universe, but human beings lost their sense of what is proper and good in every setting. Our understanding of right and wrong was not totally lost—after the fall, all people retain the image of God and thus an awareness of His character and demands (9:6). Nevertheless, our views of everything from leadership to character to personal relationships have been transformed by selfishness and other evils. In our fallenness, we seek leadership because we crave power, not servanthood. We seek security in material wealth. We manipulate and exploit others for our own ends.
Since the fall, our Lord has been correcting us, turning our understanding upside down, or better, right-side up. His first gospel promise indicates that the Messiah would surrender His life to defeat the enemy, revealing that Christ alone would bring salvation while also giving a model for servant-leaders to lay down their lives for God’s sheep (3:15). His call to Noah demonstrates that those whom we should admire trust in the promises and predictions of the invisible Creator even before they are fulfilled (Heb. 11:7). His exhortation for Abraham to leave his homeland behind and to be willing to sacrifice his son reveals that loss for the kingdom’s sake leads to gain (Gen. 12:1–3; 22:1–19). His exaltation of Joseph after the patriarch’s imprisonment due to his rejection of Potiphar’s wife shows that the price we might have to pay to keep our integrity is worth it. His deliverance of Israel under Moses—a humble shepherd, not a mighty army—reveals that godly power is not a matter of who has the most weapons or greatest number of soldiers (Ex. 14). This point is also made in Joshua’s conquest of Jericho and Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites; neither man could attribute his victories to military strength (Josh. 6; Judg. 7). God’s choice of David, a lowly shepherd boy, indicates that the Lord does not typically call those whom the world deems significant but looks for the humble in heart to lead His people (1 Sam. 16).
Such values seem upside down to the world, but for God they are actually right-side up. So, when God became incarnate in Christ Jesus, He preached a right-side-up kingdom wherein the first will be last and the last first (Mark 10:31). What else would we expect from a King “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28–30)?
Servanthood, the willingness to put the needs of others before ourselves, trusting not in our own strength, maintaining our integrity—these are the values of God’s right-side-up kingdom. When our churches embody these values, they will look strange to the world, but that should be our goal. We want people to see our congregations and notice that there is something different about them, that we have values that are different from those of the kingdoms of this world.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 2:1–10