I just got done spending an hour with someone who is perhaps the most upside-down person I know. This individual consistently looks at things through a kingdom of God lens, and refuses to embrace anything because it is “how things are done” or “the way it has always been”, or perhaps most significantly, “the way so and so does it.” Instead, this person is concerned with what scripture says, and what values are reflected in Jesus’ reign. And there is no part of his life or work that are left unexamined or allowed to be uninformed and unformed by these things.
I can sometimes see myself as this kind of person, but whenever I spend time with this friend I realize how easily my kingdom lenses can slip or get smudged or fall off my face entirely, or worse, how willing I can be to just take them off because I prefer a different view.
John Stantic has a beautiful piece up today about imagination, and the role of imagination in our ability to be kingdom people. He challenges our ability to see the things that scripture testifies are true in the midst of cultures and communities that would say the opposite. John asks:
“Are we living in the life giving narrative of the Kingdom that redeems all kingdoms and cultures and stories, or are we meandering through an illusion with God’s holy words lodged in our heads, but failing to penetrate our hearts where they can guide us to live the reality of His Kingdom?…Are we living in the story of God and his plans for all of creation? Or, are we living in the stories of our culture that teach us to trust in temporal things and overlook the majestic vision required to believe and participate in God’s dream for our world?”
I’ve never thought about my upside-down friend as imaginative. But I think he is an example to me of the kind of person John is describing: a person who has been given the faith to believe in the invisible, the imperceptible, the counter-intuitive, the countercultural. He has been given eyes to see the kingdom, and he is upside-down because of it. And that is the very thing that is a stumbling block for so many of us: our willingness to believe a different story that turns the values of our world on their heads. On any given day, the competing narratives get a lot more airplay and it is not surprising then that we find ourselves with imaginations that have been co-opted or outright defeated.
We are called to walk through this life as upside-down people. That is to be our witness. And after spending an hour with my friend, I stand convicted.