Upside Down Kingdom: Love Is The Rule | Matt Nickel
Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 6:1–12
In the Upside-down Kingdom love is the only rule.
- Great crowds followed Jesus: sick, afflicted with diseases and pains, seizures, and paralytics. (Matt 4:23)
- Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matt 5:1)
- You are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:14)
- Jesus fulfills the law not people (Matt 5:20)
- Love those who don’t deserve it
- Have a hidden righteousness
- Store treasure in heaven
- Trust in what is unseen
In the Upside-down Kingdom, self-care is critical to loving others Aka “Stop Being so Judgmental and Get Therapy”
 “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (ESV)
Stop judging others. Full stop. I’d like you to take that phrase and repeat it over and over in your head. As you walk through a grocery store, or drive in traffic, or even on a zoom call. Stop judging others. Let’s be honest, we love to judge others. Every time we notice how a person is dressed we begin to compare ourselves to them… am I better than them or worse? We use to do bolster our self esteem or our righteousness and we tell ourself how great we are. Especially when we are feeling guilty about something we like to look around to find something that is worse than us and say “Well at least I’m not like them…” There is a neighbor of mind that really quickly built a small barn/shed and I was like wow… they did that really quickly… and it made me feel bad about how long it takes me to get things done… and then they got half way through painting it and it just sits. And I said to Rachel as we drove by… that makes me happy.
It really comes from our own feelings of inadequacy that leads us to think that we need to stand in judgement over other people. We think somehow our belief in God came from how good we are and not how good God is. I was reminded of the character of God this week as I read this book. And he says that the rain reminds us of God sends the rain and the sun on the good and the evil. He delights in treating all of creation better than they deserve. This is who God is, and somehow we start thinking we deserve what God has given us… Stop judging others. We don’t know people’s stories or how they got there… We don’t know what God has planned for their future. God has been super clear that he uses the foolish things to shame the wise.
1 Corinthians 1:26–29
 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (ESV)
Get therapy. I really believe why we are so quick to judge others is that we are wounded and triggered and the only way we feel ok in this world is to protect ourselves from those that feel dangerous to us. Religious leaders, alcoholics, poverty… How can we help people when we have not dealt with the deep wounds that have formed us. That is why I am a big supporter of therapy. Everyone should do it. Explore your memories and relive the most emotional moments of your lives, that you might mine the gold God has been producing in you.
I was always told to put others first. Treat others as more important than yourself… etc. And while there is some good scripture backing to not being selfish, there is a danger to this kind of thinking. Think about the rule in airplanes, put on your own mask first before assisting others. You are no good to others if you are burned out, out of oxygen or dead. In this passage he says to take the log out of your own eye. How do we think we can help other people if we ourselves are not emotionally healthy? It takes some self reflection. We need to know what our wounds and traumas are. Otherwise we will find ourselves reacting negatively to other peoples issues. This in most cases requires not just a repentance of sins but a deep look at while we are drawn to certain sins. Why do certain things cause us to shut down or turn violent. Getting therapy where someone helps you identify wounds from your childhood that have left you broken and unhealthy. Many of us have learned to turn off all emotion in order to refrain from ungodly anger… We need help, help getting healthy, help sorting through our baggage, that we might come out the other side with bandwidth to help others.
Somehow in Christianity we were so worried about being judged as broken or sinful that we never admitted to feeling worthless, broken, and sinful. No wonder we have struggled to find the peace and freedom that is promised in Jesus. Yes He forgives our sins, but He is also in the business of healing our wounds. Our emotional wounds. Wound that have come prom parental abandonment, abuse, or the need as a child to be the adult because the environment was so unsafe. These things leave deep festering wounds that cause us to rot on the inside. We have no business in trying to help other people when we have not addressed the log in our own eye and started to heal from it.
And as we become more emotionally mature we find that we have deeper empathy for others. We have more grace for others, and we can truly help others.
And this passage has a word of warning at the end… don’t throw your pearls before swine… what the heck. That seems judgmental. It just means, you don’t have to try and help those who aren’t ready for help. It’s about not being foolish. You are not the hero… Read the room. You don’t have to say every thought that crosses your mind in order to be “helpful”. As God works in people’s lives, you get to participate, but you are not Jesus and you should not try to “save” people.
In the Upside-down Kingdom, the king is good and loving.
 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (ESV)
In all kingdoms, not everyone has access to the king. In ancient times if you requested time with the king… it could be a dangerous thing. If the king did not extend his scepter, not only were you not able to see the king, but you could also have been killed. In the upside-down kingdom, access is not that limited. The only one that could have access to a king at all hours of the night was to be a child of the king. A kid can have access to their dad at all hours of the night.
The King invites us to come and ask. Bring our requests, that we might have a relationship. Yes God knows what we need before we even ask, but he wants to hear our heart. What is it that is bothering us, what is it that we think we need. And the like the children we are, we often ask too small or for the wrong things. He doesn’t punish us for asking. He listens and he interacts. And because he is good.. he will give us good gifts. Like a good father he gives good gifts. He doesn’t always give what we think we need, but he gives us what is better. Sometimes we ask for our suffering to be over and instead he comforts us with his presence. He gives us good and perfect gifts, even if we don’t see it at the time.
We are urged here to trust in the goodness of God. You see the very first sin came about as the serpent questioned the goodness of God. If God is not good and his motives not pure, than can we trust him? No… and we would be tempted to trust in ourselves not God. To work hard and earn the life we want rather than believe in the mercy of God, who always treats us better than we deserve.
Deeper than asking, is seeking. We do not only approach God to ask of things, but to seek Him. To know him better. If God is good, then being in his presence is to bask in the goodness of God. To enjoy God in his generous goodness. The art of seeking God is setting time aside to be with God, to listen to God, to ponder his ways. Being with God is enough. It satisfies the soul. Being still and knowing God is good. Laying down beside still waters. This is seeking…
Knock. To me knocking has to do with action. What is it that God would have you do? Do you ask God for discernment. Is he asking you to change jobs, move states, or talk to someone specifically. Are you discerning what God would have you do in each situation you find yourself in. Not that we are paralyzed until we hear from God, but we are not thoughtless about our decisions, but ask God what he would have us do
In the Upside-down Kingdom, love is the only rule.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
This simple verse was Jesus’s abbreviated version of the 10 commandments. In the ancient world, the saying was in a negative form: don’t do to others if you don’t want them to do to you. Refrain from doing the things… but this doesn’t encompass the heart of Jesus.
But for Jesus the rule to do to others to love others.
 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
You see the heart of the 10 commandments is love. Love God and love others. You could say all sin is a failure to love God or love others. So our guiding principle is to be overwhelmingly loving toward others, extend more grace than people deserve, be more hospitable that is expected…
Love your spouse
Love your neighbor
Love your enemy
Love the stranger
Love the widow and orphan
Who are we not called to love??
 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (ESV)
This is a hard teaching. We don’t see this modeled very well in our world. The Christian church doesn’t do it well. But we have to start somewhere. We may need therapy before we can begin to do this well. But at least start noticing where you fail to love like Jesus, Who is it that you find hard to love. Who is it that you find yourself judging, or treating differently. Jesus is calling you to love. When in doubt love others like you would like to be loved… unconditionally. Treat people like Jesus did. Bless people even when they don’t deserve it.
It may be hard to live this kind of love, because we have not have actually experienced this kind of love. Whether it be from our childhood homes, or christian leaders… we have received so many messages of sin and judgement that we struggle with accepting the truth of God’s love. We need to remind ourselves constantly of the love and acceptance that is ours in Christ. Not because we deserve it, but because we never could have earned it. We accept it as a free and generous gift.
It is only in receiving and basking in the love of Jesus that we can begin to share it with those around us.
More in Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount
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