Squinting at the scoreboard above our high school’s pool, I was surprised to see how many goals were posted on the “Guest” side for the evening’s water polo game. My son and his teammates had been playing well and I was sure they’d scored a few more goals than the board showed for our home team. After a few minutes of confusion, I recalled we weren’t originally scheduled to host the game. The location had changed because our opponent’s pool was having maintenance issues, making us the “Guest” team in our own pool.
Turning to the fans surrounding me in the stands, I reminded them that our goals were being logged on the “Guest” side of the board. Most breathed a sigh of relief. Few of their sons had remembered to tell them this important detail before rushing out the door. Every time new fans arrived we told them the same information: “We’re the guest team tonight.” It’s always helpful to know how to read the scoreboard accurately so you can cheer for the right team.
As I opened the pages to Jen Wilkin’s Sermon on the Mount Bible study this week, my experience at the water polo game seemed like a fitting analogy. Reading Jesus’ opening words in the Sermon on the Mount evoked that same disconcerting “everything is opposite” sort of feeling.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10, ESV)
In the world’s eyes, few of the descriptions listed by Jesus would be considered a blessing—no one wants to be poor in spirit, mourning or meek. Few people in our world value righteousness, give mercy or show purity of heart. Fewer still strive to be peacemakers or feel blessed in the face of persecution. Most of the things our world values are completely opposite.
However, as followers of Christ, we don’t see things from the world’s perspective. We know we’re just travelers passing through on our way to our true home in heaven. Jesus makes this clear in John 15 when He explains “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19a, NIV).
Our citizenship is in heaven. While we’re here on earth, our purpose is to be a dwelling for the Holy Spirit to bring God’s light into the world. (Paul talks about this in Ephesians 2:19-22, if you want to read more). In essence, we’re on the “Guest” team while we’re here and are called to invite others onto it with us by sharing the good news of Jesus with them.
Living the kind of opposite life Jesus describes is difficult, especially when the world around us doesn’t see value in what we’re doing. There can be lonely moments when we’re the only ones in the stands cheering for the “Guest” team because no one else cares about what matters to God. What I’m realizing, though, is that being blessed doesn’t always mean experiencing comfort or ease on this side of heaven. We live with the tension of knowing Jesus has claimed the victory over sin, death and Satan, but our world has not yet embraced this truth. When the game ends, however, all people will look at the scoreboard and see that the “Guest” team has posted the win.
I thank God for blessing me with fellow travelers on my faith journey who walk beside me to encourage and challenge me as we strive together to live like Jesus. It’s a blessing to live an “everything is opposite” kind of life with others who know we’re just passing through on our way to a better place. It’s all about having our focus in the right place.