Reprinted, with permission, from LifeDate (Lutherans for Life, Fall 2016).
Would you hire a kleptomaniac to install locks on your doors? Would you ask an enemy soldier to suggest a password for protecting your own military’s secrets? Would you subscribe to a newspaper if you knew all of its journalists were pathological liars? If you did these things, and if everyone around you did such things, then what would be the definition of “pathology” anyway?
When grown adults don’t even know which potty to use, we have a rather confused world. It’s as if that childish game—that “no” means “yes” and “yes” means “no”—never ended. Where were Dad and Mom to say, “Enough is enough, kids. You’re confusing your little sister, and I want you to use words properly for the rest of the day.”
When men father children without getting married, when those who pledge “until death do us part” do part long before death, when it is two men or two women instead who get “married,” when she who is pregnant “chooses” her child’s death or she who has no man in her life turns to technology to generate a child—the longer these patterns persist, the more normal they seem. If people stand on their heads long enough, then upside down will appear right side up and right side up will appear upside down.
Jason discovered this phenomenon around the year A.D. 50 when a mob surrounded his home in Thessalonica because he was hosting Paul and Silas. From the Scriptures these apostles had been teaching that the Messiah was to suffer and die and then rise from the dead. They talked about how Jesus had fulfilled these prophecies precisely. They identified Jesus as the Savior who brought forgiveness and new life to God’s people—indeed, to all people, Jew and Gentile alike. Although many of the Gentiles believed, some of “the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason ... [W]hen they could not find [Paul or Silas], they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them …’” (Acts 17:5–7a).
Did you notice that? To the unbelieving Jews, the apostles were guilty of turning the world upside down. Except that they really hadn’t. The world had been turned upside down and inside out by Satan’s connivings, by people’s rebellions, by the mutilation of God’s creation of man and woman until nothing was left but sinful flesh. The apostles proclaimed that Jesus had come to turn the world right side up again and to bathe the sinful flesh in the cleansing waters of baptism, but they appeared upside down and filthy to the deceived and deluded people around them.
Christ’s followers do not merely look different to unbelievers, they smell different, too. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “[W]e are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15–16). To those who believe that Jesus was just a man who died, Christians bear the stench of death; to those who believe that Jesus was the God-man who rose from the grave, Christians smell like a spring garden.
Upside down or right side up, alive or dead, stinky or fragrant—how can anyone be certain what’s what? Woe to us if we know not the difference! As Isaiah judged, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
What remains for God’s people in a world increasingly hostile to Christ and His followers? A world that terms what is neither reproductive nor healthy nor caring as “reproductive health care”? A world that calls the despising of God’s institution of marriage a “diversity” worth celebrating? A world that idolizes tolerance and demonizes truth? A world that brands Christ’s followers as hateful and bigoted? A world that has been doing so for so long that few people seem to know the difference anymore?
Yes, civilization as we once knew it has crumbled to the ground, but God’s Word remains unchanged. The same Word of God by which the early church not only survived but thrived is still ours today. The Bible’s two main teachings—the Law and the Gospel—remain to expose sin as sin and to cover sin with grace. Let us read the Bible all the more earnestly in order that we can clearly distinguish right side up from upside down. Let us reach out in love to a deeply hurting world that needs the same peace with God that we have in Christ Jesus.
Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson is the founding president of The Hausvater Project. He lives with his wife Marie and their homeschool children in Casper, Wyoming, where he serves as Academic Dean and Professor of History and Philosophy at Luther Classical College. He previously taught American history, history of science, and bioethics at Bethany Lutheran College, 2003–2023. For more information, visit www.ryancmacpherson.com.