An upside-down kingdom

Published 8:00 pm Friday, June 22, 2012

By Chris Surber

Saying goodbye is never easy. It is even harder when saying goodbye for good. That pain recently pressed in on my heart as I said goodbye to a dear friend – my first mentor in the ministry. At the time of writing this article, he had been placed on hospice care with his days on the road of this life drawing to an end.

My heart was then, as it is now, heavy with his passing. I offered words of encouragement to this man so well known for his encouraging spirit. I reminded him of the truth that he already knew full well. “Men like us,” I said, “don’t have to fear death. It is merely the end of this journey when our work here is done.”

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His words fell on my ears as soft cotton, even as they constrained my soul like a vice. He said “Jesus is calling me home.” I held back tears long enough to tell this dear saintly man that I would see him again. His reply, “Won’t that be wonderful!”

Then my wife and I reminisced about this wonderful man we both love and lamented the time and distance that often keeps us from those, like Bill, whom we cherish.

I have walked the road of loss, arm in arm, with grief on its cruel road many times. The grip of grief is strengthened most by the simple pain of our loss and the conviction that the person we have lost has somehow been cheated, taken too soon, or otherwise been robbed of something good.

That’s how we think in this world. That’s how the world thinks. Death is always bad. Pain is never fruitful. Hope is vain.

That’s life in the world but not in the kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, the end of this broken life is the beginning of life with God. Death isn’t dying. It is entering into life!

In Philippians 1:21 the Apostle Paul says “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (NIV) The Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom where followers of Jesus are called to die to self, live for Christ, and, one day, die in the flesh to live eternally in the spirit.

Never have I known a man who looked more like Jesus in simple ways. I have often said of his mentorship that I learned a great deal more from his ways than his words.

I mourn the prospect of his passing, but I do not weep for him. I rejoice for him and look forward to our reunion after I have run my race, finished my course. In the upside-down kingdom of Jesus, living is about embodying Christ, and dying is the opening of the gate to life.