The Upside Down
The Upside Down.
For viewers of the Netflix Series “Stranger Things”, this reference is easily digested as the pseudo-reality filled with murderous beings and all of our “hiding under the bed” fears rolled into one. This place exists alongside, underneath, and through normal life for the residents of Hawkins, Indiana, folks sometimes coming directly face-to-face with their “other” counterparts.
This place and its meaning has slipped easily into American vernacular, and it’s becoming commonplace for us to refer to something terrible, sickening, and out of the ordinary in a bad way as “The Upside Down” and that we’ve somehow travelled there. Mass shootings, famine that ravages entire nations and their children, cancer in all of its forms, and our democracy—seemingly holding on by mere threads of grit and hope—lead to comments such as, “We’ve entered The Upside Down,” or “So-an-So is the mayor of The Upside Down,” and “This is some real Upside Down sh*t.”
My church is wrapping up a sermon series titled Upside Down, if you need further evidence of how this fictional hellhole has oozed its way into our societal discussions. Our pastor has done a masterful job of following Jesus’ ministry with the idea that, as he was viewed then and is viewed now, Jesus came to turn things upside down. The rub: in doing so, he’d be turning things right-side up, because we are, even in my pastor’s examination, living in an Upside Down. We are in a post Fall world. A world in which we’ve been cast out of Eden, and paradise is on the other side.
This Upside Down far predates Netflix and their flashy graphics and nostalgic 1980’s fashion and music. The Upside Down we’re living in was created in an instant in the Garden of Eden, and human beings have been circling its drain ever since.
Jesus came to turn things right again, a promise of eternal salvation far from anything upside down. A place for everlasting communion with God and nary an inkling of sadness or despair in sight. Long gone will be the days of war, famine, and suffering, Jesus promises of those who accept invitation into the Kingdom. Far away will be resentment and sin.
I don’t blame those early Jews he conversed with for thinking Jesus was trying to turn things upside down rather than right side up. Jesus promised to return things to the way God always intended. But for those so far removed from God and his Spirit, Jesus was just a heretic threatening to upend the apple cart.
That’s how sin works.
Slow, sly, and insidious, sin is rarely obvious to the sinner. Even if it is, another layer of sin comes along as a salve of justification, and we feel better again, forging head. We ignore the floating specks of debris that indicate we’re heading down the wrong path. We pull out a flashlight of our own making to navigate the ever-darkening landscape before us. We often don’t realize we’re in the Upside Down until Satan has us by the ankle, pulling us at break-neck speed into a hole we’ll never be able to reach the bottom of.
God reaches down through Jesus at the edge of the hole. No matter what leads us there in the first place, Jesus reaches with the same intensity and strength for everyone. And yet, even with the threat of the unending darkness beneath our flailing feet, we doubt the rescue. We question it with greater scrutiny than we weighed the decision to sin in the first place.
For one to believe that we’re living in anything other than The Upside Down would mean an acceptance of sin and suffering as necessary to the function and survival of society and humanity and our souls. To accept them as “just the way it is.”
But that’s not the way it is. That’s never been the plan for God’s creation, and one need look no further than the opening verses of Genesis to discover the love and care with which our Creator did his creating. There was no sadness. No death. No sin.
It was good.
It was by God, through God, and with God.
And Jesus called and still calls us to this place. This eternal oneness and rightness with our Creator, as he created.
Christian, follow Jesus to The Upside Down. It’s where everything is right again.