Virtues Upside-Down In The New Kingdom

Christ has ushered in a new kingdom. There are no borders, you can’t see the king, there is no currency, and it isn’t of this world (John 18:36). In this new kingdom hierarchy Jesus flips values on their head: and this is what a kingdom citizen look like (Matthew 5:2-10 paraphrased):

The spiritually poor, the mourning, the meek, the repentant, the merciful, the pure at heart, the peaceful, and the persecuted

These are the people who receive the blessing of God. These are what people look like when they are recipients of the grace of God. This is unusual, because by anybody else’s standards we can recognize these quiet and unremarkable traits as naturally boring to us – not even worth attention. Surely these aren’t agents of an invisible kingdom. Why would we esteem honour to those who are downcast, self-reflective, broken-hearted, and meticulous in personal conduct? We may experience these people are drab, sad, picky, and maybe even mildly irritating: the “bleeding heart”, “scrupulous”, or “rain-on-your-parade” types. These are surely not the type of people we instinctively want to laud with praise and honour – or the type of people we would expect to be considered winners by any measure. Let’s take a look at their antitype:

The self-sufficient, the triumphant, the proud, the unapologetic, the ruthless, the ambitious, the conflictual, and the celebrated.

These are not the kind of people who inherit the blessing of God. This is a description of a person who do not know grace. But this same person is the kind of one our worldly heroes and leaders resemble – those whom we naturally admire. These are also the sort of characters that naturally succeed: the winners.

Have you ever asked God why the wicked succeed? Why do worldly winners seem blessed while God seems to pass ‘the blessed’ by? Asaph did, and his Psalm is worth reading.

In this upside-down paradoxical kingdom where it seems that every worldly virtue is a vice and every earthly weakness is a new kingdom strength, it can be hard to wrap your head around. In a plea for this kind of reorientation Arthur Bennett penned it well in his prayer ‘The Valley of Vision‘:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.

and that’s why the apostle concludes:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)

and that’s the story of amazing grace.

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