The Upside-Down Kingdom, Chapter 12: Successful Failures

The Upside-Down Kingdom, Chapter 12: Successful Failures November 26, 2023

The Upside-Down Kingdom, Chapter 12: Successful Failure

There’s much in this chapter to “talk” about. But I’d like to focus on one main point: the meaning of “bearing one’s cross.” As I read Kraybill’s explanation, I was reminded of John Howard Yoder’s discussion of this in The Politics of Jesus.

According to both Kraybill and Yoder, “bearing one’s cross” does NOT mean putting up with suffering, mental or physical. Bearing one’s cross is about sacrificing one’s own pleasure and personal success (as the world measures success) in order to serve God and others. Ultimately, it means joining Jesus and his community in living out the upside-down way of life that Jesus lived and taught.

Insofar as we do that, we will be crucified (usually metaphorically speaking) and yet we will find joy there. Possibly not personal pleasure (as the world portrays pleasure), but the joy of heaven (metaphorically speaking as a vital relationship with God that gives us true fulfillment of our telos).

In this chapter Kraybill offers specific suggestions of transforming strategies Christian individuals and churches can use to be “salt and light” in this mostly wrong-side-up world, helping it get more right-side-up. Everything is possibly right short of violence and direct political action, so long as it is true service to God and humanity. Kraybill emphasizes example and prophetic speech when it comes to changing the world. It seems he would agree with Stanley Hauerwas that the main ethical duty of the church is to be the church, as it was meant by Jesus to be, an upside-down alternative community, upside-down compared with the ways of the world.

Again, as almost always, I find myself in agreement with Kraybill while thinking his vision and calling is unrealistic in this sinful, violent world. What comes to mind is the movie “The Machine Gun Preacher.” What is a Christian to do when confronted with violence of the powerful against the powerless, especially against children? What about Bonhoeffer? Yes, as I have proven here with direct quotes from Bonhoeffer reported by his close friend and student Eberhard Bethge, the German pacifist pastor and theologian DID participate in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He even offered to kill Hitler himself.

This brings me once again to the dialectical ethical category of “the necessary.”

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure you read the chapter. If not, you may ask a question. In either case, keep it relatively brief (no more than about 100 words), on topic, addressed to me (or Kraybill), civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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