In the Gospels, the people who stand out, who get it right and respond to the Gospel as they should, are almost always nameless. The presentation is consistent with a theme deeply embedded in the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus aligns himself with the weak and the meek, the lowly and the lonely. In the eyes of God, those who are last will be first, and the first are often last. In her book, The Way Up is Down (IVP Press), Marlena Graves is urging God’s people to discover afresh the counterintuitive message of the Gospel of Jesus. Following Jesus requires a lifestyle of humility, not only before God but also among one’s fellowman. It requires the foregoing of one’s “rights” as we seek the wellbeing of others. It is a lifestyle of constant repentance, prayer, forgiveness, and the desire to serve others rather than be served. Graves is concerned that arrogance, greed, and lust for significance and personal satisfaction have become pervasive in the church culture. I think she’s right. We are called to practice the kenotic life, a life of self-giving and sacrifice as modeled by Jesus. But do we? Are we known by our love, forbearance, forgiveness, and humility? Do non-Christians see people who follow the way of the cross? Are we famous for our compassion and generosity, or for our defiance, walls, and lust for political power? Are we known for welcoming others or for our fear and distrust? The Way Up is Down is a passionate plea for God’s people to take the example of Jesus seriously, to embrace the paradox that power is found in weakness, that significance is found in humility, and that esteeming others as more important than ourselves is how we live our best life.
It’s an upside-down way of living in a world driven by money and power and celebrity. Even church culture can succumb to the pressure to define ministerial “success” by prestige, influence, and attendance. In God’s eyes, the eloquent celebrity leaders of Christendom might be last, while the untrained, semi-literate preacher who bumbles his way through weekly sermons as he faithfully pastors a handful of folks in the backside of nowhere may be a rock star. Who knows? Perhaps, in heaven, the nameless woman at the well and the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch will have holidays declared in honor of their faith. I suspect Jesus will make sure it is quite a celebration.
-Darrel Holcombe, Owner
Sanctuary Christian Books and Gifts
Colonial Promenade, Alabaster