Bread – Position

May 24, 2013


Readings for Friday, May 24, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 4:1-17; 1 Tim. 5:17-25; Luke 14:1-11; Psalms 16,17,22

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Getting ahead in the world. For most people, this is our daily call. To get ahead in the world, we acquire money, power, position, and possessions. For men, we may acquire a trophy wife. For women, we may acquire security. For all of us, getting ahead in the world means adding to our retirement accounts, our savings, our electronics and furniture, our home square footage, our title, our salary, the size and quality of our cars or trucks, our memberships, our dinner parties. We must get ahead in the world or we will get behind.

Don’t we all know that?

Then what does Jesus mean in our reading today from Luke – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk. 14:11 Oh we know the old adage that pride goeth before a fall, but if we always stand at the end of the line, aren’t we behind all the time? How do we get ahead in the world if, at least once in a while, we don’t step to the head of the line?

There is a tendency among some Christians to focus on the “in the world” part of the question and say simply that, as Christians, if we follow Christ’s lead we cannot get ahead in the world. In other words, poverty and being beat upon is just part of the Christian life, so discipleship means poverty. And there are plenty of quotations from the Bible that you can find to support this position.

There is a tendency among other Christians to focus on the “exalted” part of Christ’s statement and say that, if we behave properly, we will be exalted and will win the game of life. Proponents of this “prosperity” gospel can also find plenty of quotations from the Bible to support this position.

So which one is right? Maybe neither. There is a third alternative, and that is that in Christ there is neither victory nor defeat “in the world” because, while we live in Christ, our position is in the kingdom of God. That kingdom is both in heaven and on earth. That kingdom is ruled by God and we are His subjects, not His equal. To the extent we are “in the world,” we are no more than ambassadors of the kingdom of God, taking up residence in a foreign place. As ambassadors, where we live is our home in the limited sense of our home is where we are, but in the more fundamental sense of home, where we live in the world is not our home because we are only ambassadors.

What is our position in the kingdom of God? As subjects, our position in a sense is based upon our obedience to the King. To the extent we take on Christ, learn from Him, obey Him, and follow Him, our position is enhanced. To the extent that we reject Christ, learn from others, obey ourselves or others, and follow our own desires or the desires of others, our position is diminished.

Then, as subjects of the kingdom of God, our position in the world is enhanced when God wants it to be enhanced, when it serves His purposes, and our position in the world is diminished when God wants it to be diminished for His purposes. Remember that an ambassador does not live in a house provided by the host country, he lives in the house in the host country provided by the kingdom he represents. If the king of the kingdom wants his ambassador to live in a poor house, then a poor house it is.

When I was growing up, I always used to love to think about the concept of parallel universes, and I still think the concept of a parallel universe explains where missing socks disappear to. In many respects the idea of a present kingdom of God among us, here on earth right now, is like this parallel universe. The difference, however, is that according to the rules of the parallel universe, you are either in one or the other. With Christians, you are physically in both at the same time. However, there is some parallel in the concepts because, in your heart, in your spirit, you can only be in one or the other. You are in Christ or you are not; you are either saved or you aren’t; you are either a citizen of the kingdom of God or you are not.

So, in Christ we Christians have two positions, one in the kingdom of God and the other here on earth. In the kingdom of God, humility results in blessing. In the world, humility may or may not result in blessing. So what? Our home is not in the world, it is in the present kingdom of God.

How do we get ahead in the world? We who are in Christ really don’t care about the answer to that question, because as ambassadors to the world we know that our position is temporary in the foreign land but permanent in the homeland.

How do we get ahead in the world? We don’t because as servants of the Most High we don’t have to. We are already citizens of the kingdom of God and how much better can it be?

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© 2013 GBF

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