Have you ever noticed how often the bad guy ties the good guy up and hangs him upside down? I don’t know if this is a well-researched tactic by them, but it seems to rarely work. And honestly, most good guys have some serious ability to not pass out.
Being upside down isn’t normal, or fun for anyone over the age of 8 (that’s a rough estimate) for that matter. Upside-down is especially not fun for the town of Hawkins, Indiana.
Yet, Paul lived life in pursuit of upside-down.
Acts 17:2-8 says:
Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.
Now understand, for Paul and Silas to be regarded as radical world changers here is not a good thing. They brought a message that was contrary to what the Jews believed. They preached of King Jesus, a king other than Caesar.
These individuals were not excited for Paul and Silas to be in their presence. “They have been running rampant throughout cities, converting men and women in our synagogues, and teaching Greeks they are able to be included as God’s people! We must rid of them!” To the Jewish leaders, Paul (the enemy) was coming on their home turf and snatching players from their own team.
Paul had already turned the world upside down. And he was continuing to do so.
By doing two things:
1) By going.
2) By teaching Jesus as the Christ, who suffered and died for the sins of man and was raised from the dead, defeating death and offering eternal life.
Paul was fulfilling the Great Commission and following his calling directly from Jesus to go to the Jew first and the Gentile next proclaiming the gospel. Paul was rocking the foundations of Judaism and the Roman Empire. They had to be stopped. The Jewish leaders set out to find them but were unsuccessful. So they took fellow believers from their homes and brought them before city officials. They charged them with acts against Caesar, a very serious crime.
Surely this would strike fear into Paul, to threaten his fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus. Not at all. The brothers sent Paul to Berea soon thereafter, and he continued to turn the world upside down in Jesus’ name.
Paul was fearless. He was fully assured in a Jesus who had come and defeated death, and who had provided atonement of sin before the Holy God of the Jew and Gentile. He preached the gospel. He spoke of a reality like none had ever experienced before. He spoke of a reality that changed lives. He spoke of a reality that flipped the world upside down.
We can’t expect everyone to accept the gospel. We can’t expect everyone to be gentle and patient towards us. We can’t expect to always be in the comfort of a people, community, or nation who ‘accept’ the idea of Jesus.
But we can expect for a mighty and powerful God to work in our lives as we live to serve Him, speak of the hope only He provides, and work through the power of the Spirit in the confidence of Christ to turn the world upside down. Only by His power can we do anything.
Jesus flipped Paul’s life upside down. He was a man, determined to bury the movement of the ‘church of Jesus.’ He died as a man determined to spread the church of Jesus to the ends of the earth. He was transformed from persecutor to persecuted. He lived to bring glory to King Jesus through life and through death.
The gospel is shocking.
Jesus still transforms. Jesus is still flipping the world upside down, one life at a time. Jesus will meet you where you are. He knows you. He knows your suffering and your oppression. He knows your struggle and your difficulty. He offers a hope, a freedom, a salvation that surpasses all.