For centuries, Christians have been portrayed as the bad guys.
During Jesus’ day, religious leaders felt like He threatened their status, power, and influence. Jealousy reared high its ugly, and seemingly-triumphant, head until a bloody crown of thorns bowed low on the cross.
In A.D. 64, the egomaniac Nero first blamed the burning of Rome on the Jews. However, since they had many friends in high court places, the blame shifted to the religiously-unorthodox Christians. As a result, many were seized, tortured, and killed.
In Ephesus, a riot broke out after an idol-maker named Demetrius stirred up businessmen by telling them, “This Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” (Acts 19:26b)
Yet, my most favorite episode of blame stars Paul and Silas in Thessalonica. After hearing their passionate teaching in the synagogue, jealous Jews set the whole town in an uproar by shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17:6b ESV)
In other words, our world has needed an adjustment for a very long time. The same pride that Satan injected into Adam and Eve, is the same lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life that we contend with today. Our current circumstances are not new. They are just new to us. The more we speak out against sin, the more we are portrayed as the bad guys.
Sure, we’d all like to be known as the good guys, but truth is, if we walk behind Jesus we will often be criticized and rejected by those who live by their own set of standards. Thankfully, our Holy Spirit power helps us fight against sin – not people. We call sin out, but we do our best to be the conduit that allows the Spirit to pour out His grace and truth. We let our critics see the joy we are able to maintain even in shark-infested waters because our belief and trust lies in Jesus. We can’t be someone else’s Holy Spirit, but we can exhale the love, peace, and joy that He offers. After all, we are ministers of reconciliation. “We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV)
Cultivating genuine faith sows within us the desire to turn the world upside down for Jesus. We want to grow to be like the apostles who courageously shared Jesus all around the world. Yet, we feel more like Nemo surrounded by a throng of hungry sharks. Some of us may feel as if the whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
Remember Jesus’ words? “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) God is on our side and he has given you a way to overcome any feelings of despair. I don’t care who you are, what you do for a living, or how large or small your circle of influence is, He has given you a platform! Your platform may be so large that your name becomes known around the world. You may work for a large corporation that enables you to run in elite social circles. However, most likely, your platform is a lot like mine – about the size of a postage stamp. I hope you don’t feel insignificant. Gathered around those small platforms stand some mighty important people. Kids. Grandkids. Spouses. Friends. Neighbors. Co-workers. Waiters. Cashiers. Even other drivers and fellow shoppers! As disciples of Jesus, we do what the apostles did. We change the world for good one interaction at a time.
I am thankful to have stood around the platforms of some amazing friends and family members who used the platforms God gave them to turn my world upside down. (I hope you’ve heard me say, “Thank you.”) I’d like to pass that kindness forward.
Your platform may be in a schoolroom full of children, an office full of co-workers, running your own business, sitting around the kitchen table, or just maybe … on the ballfield. Take a look and listen at these young, passionate ambassadors for Christ who effectively use the platform God gave them! (and then keep reading)
I want to be unapologetic in my stand against sin, but most of all, I want to be as courageous as these girls in my stand for Christ. Let’s look for ways to use the platforms we’ve been given to turn the world upside down!
Please don’t skip this part! This paraphrase hits home.
“All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:
Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.”
(Romans 9:30-33 The Message)