The Christian life is a great inversion. Everything is upside down. The first shall be last. The last shall be first. The proud are humbled. The humble are exalted. The greatest illustration of this is evident in this season between Good Friday and Easter Day. Even the fact that we would call the day of Christ’s death “Good” is evidence of a strange inversion. The loss of a loved one is typically a day of struggle, not a day of celebration. Yet, the strange connection to death is celebrated in many churches every single week. We literally “celebrate” communion or the Mass.
Good Friday and Easter are the most important days of the Christian calendar. They are the yearly anniversary of the weekly celebration of communion we were called by Jesus to practice as often as we gathered together. This command to practice communion regularly highlights the incredible importance of these days, and these days become the reminder of the basic value that the events of death and resurrection hold in our lives. If we do not understand this dynamic inversion of life and death, and darkness and hope we will not understand how to live the Christian life in a way that puts a smile on the face of God, and transforms the world around us.
Many of us live in a self-fulfilling capitalistic inversion of these Gospel truths today. We are being called by Christian leaders to live a victorious Christian life, and to capture an understanding of how wonderful we are in the eyes of God. We swallow Triumphalism wholesale as though it were the Gospel itself. In such a world, losing something or failing is evidence of God’s absence in our lives. In such a worldview, success at all costs is a kingdom activity, and winning overcomes and secedes against other values of the Christian Life. A little dishonesty, prejudice, selfishness, or any other variation of Christian value displacement is acceptable if the end (success) justifies the means. But, this view is nothing more than the way of the world gone wild. Since the errors of the Garden, and of Cain, the inversion of God’s ways has been the way of the world. It was the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection that re-imposed the model of selflessness, and giving back upon the inverted selfish world.
The Christian life is one that understands this inversion first, and above all things. There is a reason that baptism (identification with the death of Christ) and communion (another identification with the death of Christ) mark the beginning and the regular practice of Christianity. These are reminders that we find life in death, and hope in the midst of the darkened tomb. Through this model, Paul’s reference that he would find “glory of the things which concern [his] infirmities” makes sense. (2 Cor. 11:30) He understood that his sacrifice is another person’s success, and that it models the sacrifice of Christ. Too often, we want to skip the darkness and the death, and leapfrog to the resurrection and the life. But, a broken world continues to need a sacrifice. For every person who has lost or failed, for every person who is oppressed or abused, for every person who is forgotten or overlooked there remains a need for someone to place them first and raise them up. This was the work of the cross, and it is the reason we think of Christ as Savior. He placed himself last in the sequence of importance. Understanding that the Father was deeply in love with this broken and rebellious world, Jesus placed it before himself, because he too was captivated by that love.
History is filled with the stories of those who sacrifice for that which they love, and this is even the story of Christianity – of a God Who loves a wanton fiancée, who cheats on Him – traumatizes Him. Enslaved by His own love He remains faithful to the point of humiliation and death, even in the face of continued unfaithfulness and abuse coming from the object of His desire. But, love leaves no option for God to behave any other way. Christianity is the story of a God whose actions are driven by the object of His gaze, which is looking back and traumatizing Him, and the story cascades through a grotesque, yet, romantic movement from annoyance, to disturbance, to trauma.
Humanity is objectified by the objects it objectifies. We are abused by the systems and the people we abuse. They become ghosts haunting us. They become the demons of our tortured nights.
Is this the traumatizing power of the Person of Jesus? He was tormented in trial, betrayed by a false guilty verdict, and though crucified unjustly, remained silent through it all. Still He looks down the corridors of history with the silent blinking eyes of the lamb led to the slaughter, and traumatizes us with those eyes. Even the communion cup traumatizes us, because the abused God stares back at us through the bread and the wine. It carries the gaze of all the hurting, all the abused, and all the traumatized throughout human history.
Yet, there is life in death. The sacrifice of the cross precedes the resurrection to new life, but this only occurs to those who take up the cross as their own. There is hope in the darkness. The seal breaks away from the stone, which rolls away to reveal the light of a new day, but this only happens to those who lay down in the tomb.
May this Good Friday through Easter remind you of the great inversion of the Christian faith. It is through giving, and through serving others we will find ourselves. It is in moments of sacrifice that the principles of the inverted kingdom reveal themselves. Inversely, it is in seeking our own way – our own happiness – our own success, that we potentially lose all those things. God gives to those who give. God raises up those who raise others up.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
 Wyman, Phil, Burning Religion: navigating the impossible space between religion and secular society (pgs. 70-71)