“Jim” was the man, in the Jim Croce song, “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.” He ruled the town – at least 42nd street. Messing around with him was like tugging at Superman’s cape. No one went crosswise with him, until “Slim” came around and turned the power structure of 42nd Street upside down by taking Jim out and ruling the roost himself.
People in power are very protective of their power. We notice that in business and government especially. It’s been that way for a long time. Paul and his companions discovered that in Thessalonica. Paul went there, preached in the synagogue for a few weeks, and many people came to Christ. He upset two power structures: the power in the synagogue and the power in the town. So, a mob came looking for Paul and company. “But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: ‘These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’” (Acts 17:6-7)
The King James translates this with the words “These that have turned the world upside down…” In other words, the Thessalonicans were saying, “These guys messed everything up in other places, but they aren’t going to do it now. We aren’t going to let them turn our world upside down.” The gospel does that, you know. It sets the captives free. Those in slavery to their sin and held captive by those who profit from that slavery throw off the shackles of their sin. Once that happens, those who profit from keeping people in their current condition lose out. The leaders of the synagogue didn’t like it. The leaders in the town didn’t like it. The Jewish leaders joined in that now familiar scare tactic designed to root out groups like those led by Paul: “they say that there’s a king other than Caesar, one called Jesus.” Yes, even those Jewish leaders who had probably proclaimed that there was no King but God; they too joined in the attacks on Christians. Their world was turning upside down and they placed the blame on Paul and his companions.
I joke with my friends from Australia occasionally and talk about them walking upside down. They will retort that WE are the ones walking upside down. The truth is that we are all walking upside down until we develop a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul and his companions didn’t turn the world upside down, they turned it right-side up. When we are lost in our sins without Jesus Christ in our lives nothing is right. We live each day wondering why something is missing. We wander around wondering what’s wrong. The truth is that we don’t have a sense of direction in life because we are upside down in our relationship with God. It is only when we realize that there is only one king, called Jesus, and we ask Him to control our lives that our world is turned right-side-up. Once we are right side up, it changes our outlook on the world. We recognize God’s hand in all parts of life. We also feel the weight of the responsibility to share His grace and love with others. Paul lived with that responsibility and privilege each day. It didn’t bring him financial success; it brought him joy in His relationship with God. For that joy, he gladly endured the pain of persecution.
Lord God, it’s so easy to claim to follow You, but walk on my hands. When I get turned upside down in my relationship with You, turn me right side up. Let all my relationships be right side up because You are in the center of them.