One of the phrases associated with our society is "upward mobility." This is generally seen as the ability to improve one's economic and social status through personal determination and hard work. Another closely associated phrase is "moving up the ladder of success." While this path certainly comes with benefits for the outward circumstances of life, it also tends to separate people into different economic, social, cultural, and racial groups. The result is that the "higher up" we go, the more homogeneous the groups become and the more separated we are from others who are "down the ladder." The increasing wealth gap in our society is also often a relationship gap. People from different economic situations rarely develop deep relationships with each other, because they rarely live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools, or attend the same churches. It is important to realize that this is not the primary path of meaning and purpose for followers of Jesus. During this season of Lent, we focus on Jesus' journey of self-sacrifical love that led him to the cross. Jesus called his first followers and his followers today to a similar path when he said, "Whoever wants to follow me must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (Luke 9: 23-24) One of the spiritual mentors in my life, Gordon Cosby, put it this way:
Suppose the only God that exists is the descending God. Suppose the only way we can know God is to go down, to the bottom. Suppose the only way to be reconciled to God is to be reconciled with the least, who are at the bottom. If God is going down and we are going up, it is obvious that we are going in different directions. And we will not know him. We will be evading God and missing the whole purpose of our existence. (From By Grace Transformed, p. 31)
What does it mean for you and for me to follow Jesus' way of downward mobility? How is God calling you and me to cross the wealth and relationship gap so that we grow into God's purpose for our lives? There is no formula or one way to to do so. Yet for each and all of us, this is the path of reconciliation that transcends any of our human systems and unites us with God and with others who seem outwardly different but who share the same identity as beloved children of God. In a culture that constantly emphasizes "upward mobility," it is especially important to join together on Jesus' way of "downward mobility."