Conflating two fabulous quotes by G.K. Chesterton, only those who stand on their heads see the world right-side up. This paradox sounds worthy of Mr. Chesterton, who was known as the prince of paradox, but it is not exactly what he said. What he did say was “a paradox is often a truth standing on its head to get our attention” and “He who has seen the vision of his city upside-down has seen it the right way up.”
So often we can tell something is just not right about this life. Sometimes life in this world just seems off. It seems upside down. The first step in setting things right is to see life the way it ought to be.
The point is this: In a world turned upside down by sin, only those who stand on their heads can see it right-side up. If the world has been stood on its head, we must stand on ours to encounter it the right way.
Put another way, if the world is foolish with sin, we must be foolish with Christ. If we encountered someone walking down the street on his hands we would certainly think him foolish. But if the world really is upside down, perhaps he is making his way by grasping handholds on the ceiling while we who try to stand on our own two feet are in danger of falling. Rather than firmly planting our feet in this world, we need to grasp the handholds from Heaven as we walk through this life.
In twenty-first century America, we experience a culture built on luxurious self-indulgence and an ingrained sense of entitlement. How strange to encounter someone like Saint Teresa of Calcutta – whom those in my generation will forever remember as Mother Teresa – who built her life around impoverished self-giving and humble humility.
Something else G.K. Chesterton said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found hard and left untried.” For those who are home or classically schooled, this is an excellent example of the rhetorical device of reversal, but it is no paradox. Following Christ really is hard.
In a world upside down and foolish with sin, Christ calls us to stand on our heads, walk on our hands, and be foolish not with sin, but with Him. It is the only right way to make our way through a world which has been stood on its head, and perhaps the only way to draw the world’s attention to the truth of Christ.