You never know what discovery awaits when you start turning the pages of a book written by a gifted Christian author.
It’s inevitable you will come across a turn of phrase, or a lengthy quotation, that captures your heart, troubles your comfortable status quo, and has the potential to catapult you onto a higher pathway of living…if you let it.
On a recent vacation I took up, “All Things New,” by John Eldredge, a stimulating look at “Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of All Things,” recently commended to me by a Corpath friend. I was particularly moved by Eldredge’s bold statement that “Reward is a kingdom mind-set.” He goes on,
Reward, reward, reward – it fills the pages of both testaments. Saint Paul expected to be rewarded for his service to Christ, as have the saints down through the ages. Patrick, that mighty missionary to the Irish, prayed daily, ‘In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward…so that there may come to me an abundance of reward.’ C. S. Lewis used the phrase, ‘the unblushing promises of reward.’ Unblushing means boldfaced, unashamed; it means brazen, outlandish and thoroughly unapologetic. Did you know the promises of reward offered to you in Scripture are bold, unashamed, brazen? Did you even know that reward is a central theme in the teaching of Jesus and in the Bible as a whole?
But it was a quote by Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World, that really stopped me cold. And I found myself saying that you really need to pay attention to this, let it sink deep into your soul. Here is what Yancey wrote:
Jesus was the first world leader to inaugurate a kingdom with a heroic role for losers.
I’m a sucker for heroes…the valiant, winning type. Russell Crowe playing Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Tom Hanks as Navy Commander Ernest Krause in the recently released World War Two thriller, Greyhound.
These modern, heroic narratives play on our homing instinct to see justice done, to see evil banished, to see victory won.
But when you read Jesus, you discover that his definition of hero, the people he honoured, and promised to reward, have little value or recognition in the visible world.
In fact, they are the very opposite of the heroic type. They are not the influential, the worldly-wise, the wealthy, the noble-born, the stunning achievers.
Instead, they were…the poor and the meek, the persecuted, those who mourn, social rejects, the hungry and the thirsty, the powerless, refugees and aliens.
The stories Jesus told almost always featured the “wrong” people as his heroes:
- The penitent prodigal kneeling before his Father. Not the obedient son.
- The good Samaritan who broke religious codes to show mercy. Not the good Jew fixated on keeping all the religious rules.
- Poor Lazarus. Not the well-dressed who lived in luxury.
- The despised tax collector. Not the respectable Pharisee.
- The widow with her two mites. Not the wealthy establishment.
- The prostitute pouring her perfume. Not the self-righteousness religious rulers.
The Apostle Paul well understood God’s inverted “Kingdom-Calculus,” and so he wrote:
Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast for him. (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)
Because humanity’s home is the visible world, secular society values appearances above all else. Impressive wealth, sexual prowess, youthful vitality, military success. But in the end these heroes of superficiality all fade away.
What kind of hero are you? Jesus’ vision of hero-living does not make sense in our visible world…because he came from another world. He came to establish a community centered on the “upside-down” values of an invisible, eternal world – humility, sacrifice, brokenness, forgiveness, compassion, peace-making.
Jesus is looking for heroic losers. Followers who are so enamored with the Christ of selfless service, that like him we see beyond the passing illusion of temporary externals. We seek to imitate him as our guiding light, our true, heroic loser, who “for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Philippians 3:2)
Remembering always that those “unblushing promises of reward” await his heroes!
Blessings for a good week,