This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017. Pre-orders start soon!
Have you ever spun around and around until you were dizzy and ready to puke? Maybe you like those tilt-a-whirl rides at amusement parks. Maybe you’re a dancer. Or maybe, like me, your son likes to spin your office chair around and around until you’re seeing stars. In moments like those, even when you stop spinning, the room doesn’t, and soon you find yourself on the floor with the world kaleidoscoping around you. The reason for this disorientation lies deep within your inner ear, and the delicate balancing system found there. Spinning around disrupts this system, causing it to fire contradictory signals at your brain. Your poor brain, not knowing which way is up, does its best to sort out the scrambled signals, resulting in the ground seeming to shift beneath your feet.
But of course, as jarring as dizziness feels, we all know it’s only an illusion. No matter how wobbly everything appears, no matter how the ground seems to pitch like the deck of a ship at sea, nothing is actually moving. When you’re lying on the ground, drunk on dizziness, the world isn’t really spinning around you. Reality hasn’t shifted, only your perception of it. It’s all in your head.
The good news is, no matter how rattled your brain gets, the spinning subsides relatively quickly. But what if there’s another kind of dizziness that goes much deeper and lasts much longer? The Bible’s story of king and country introduces us to a soul sickness that afflicts every one of us, a condition flowing not from external stimuli but from a twisted and broken heart. This condition has permanently upended our perception of reality, robbed us of our ability to know truth and falsehood rightly, and so thoroughly shaken up our value system that our lives are upside-down and backwards. We now stagger through life, careening from one error to another, but so taken in by our inverted senses that we don’t even realize we’re drunk.
The Bible diagnoses our condition as resulting from a catastrophic fall in the primordial past, a vertigo brought on by an ancient rebellion that afflicts the entire human race. When Adam and Eve abdicated their throne and found themselves usurped by the beguiling serpent, our collective grasp on reality was broken, and all humanity fell into a psychedelic insanity where up is down, down is up, right is wrong, and wrong is right.
Today, we have lived so long in our hallucination that the way God speaks about reality seems like lunacy. The Bible’s assurances that the meek inherit the earth, that those who give away their lives will find them, that weakness is true strength, and that servanthood is true significance, sound like the deranged ravings of a madman, or at least the silly fantasies of a utopian dream. We know that the meek don’t inherit the earth; it’s the strong who survive and the winners who get what’s theirs. Significance, we are sure, comes by climbing over people to reach the top of the ladder, not by yielding our spot in line. Fulfillment comes from grabbing all we can and “sucking the marrow from life,” not through ridiculous notions like “sacrifice” and “self-denial.” And so we press on, living our lives according to an inverted moral code, wondering what’s wrong with the world. Most of us never stop to consider that perhaps a better question to ask would be, “What’s wrong with me?”
Into this nightmare rides the upside-down king, Jesus. He embodies a new, utterly bizarre way of living, and speaks with a strange cadence that follows the beat of a previously-unheard drum. He speaks of a new way to be human, of a kingdom invading and overturning our world, of the restoration of reality and the putting-right of all wrongs. Some reject him as an out-of-touch idealist, others fear him as a revolutionary and lunatic. But others hear the beat of his drum and realize that everything about him pulsates to a rhythm buried deep within their souls. Looking at his life is like looking through a crack in the world, and what they see on the other side captures their hearts. And those who look long enough come to realize this shocking truth: Jesus isn’t the one who’s upside down. We are.