Backwards, Upside Down, and Inside Out

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? -Romans 6:3

If there is an odder question in the Bible, I don’t know what it is. “Don’t you know,” writes Paul, addressing a group of Christians he’s never met in this letter sent to the church in Rome, “that the beginning of our life in Christ is death?” Didn’t anyone tell this fledgling Christian community that life, real life, true life, authentic life, only comes after death? Haven’t they heard, don’t they understand, that for the Christian, death is only the beginning, that we join the death of Jesus through baptism?

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. -Romans 6:4

There is something about our baptism into Christ that unites us with both his death and resurrection. We have died. And yet we are alive. In a letter to a different Christian community, Paul put it this way:

“…it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20

If we live (and, I assume, if you’re reading this devotion, you have a pulse and some brain activity), we live because of Christ in us. Paul sees his entire life as animated by the life of Jesus Christ and the breath of the Holy Spirit alone. Death comes through baptism, then life in the body of Christ.

To be honest, I’m not always sure that I understand this. It seems so backwards. Death, then life? That doesn’t make much sense. Next thing you know, Jesus will say something like “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” or “blessed are you who mourn.” Oh wait. He did say that, didn’t he?

Life in Jesus does not make sense, at least not according to the world’s way of thinking. In the Kingdom of God, the losers are the winners, and the winners go home without even getting a participation trophy. In the Kingdom of God, the dead live and Jesus warns that “those who want to save their lives will lose it.”

The Kingdom of God, in other words, is backwards, upside down, and inside out. Who would sign up for being last, for being the loser, for death? Only people who have taken a look inside and realized that they are last, least, losers. When we see our sin, our brokenness, and not just our own but the world’s sin and brokenness, too, when we realize that there’s nothing about us that could make God love us, when we figure out that we cannot earn the life that we need, when we either become desperate or try to fix it all ourselves, that’s when it happens. God does it again.

God turns everything inside out and backwards. Unlovable sinner? Not to God! See, here, a beloved and forgiven child of God, all because of Christ living in them. And there, in your mirror: a beloved and forgiven child of God, all because Christ lives in you.

God, show me the ways you work that are different from my own. Open my eyes to your inside out, upside down, backwards way of doing things so that I see the life you give to me and all your children. Amen.

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