Upstairs / Downstairs

One of the church’s most deadly distractions from the Kingdom is our silly “upstairs / downstairs” idea. From the early centuries of the church, Gnosticism and Greek philosophies began to seep into our thinking which separated God’s world into two levels of reality: the upstairs “spiritual” level, where God lives, and the downstairs “natural” level, where mortals live, work, and watch America’s Got Talent in the evening.

We live downstairs in the “natural” world while God lives upstairs
in the “heavenly” world.

This messed-up worldview has kept our lives as divided as whites and colors on laundry day. We imagine God almost like a reclusive old grandfather living on the second floor, while the rest of us are grinding away at life down below. Of course God loves it when we go upstairs to visit Him on Sundays, or when we need His advice. But he never, ever comes downstairs to get involved in our messy existence on the ground floor. He’s just not interested in our music, work, TV shows, or the sports car in the garage. (He’s way too religious for those sorts of “natural” things). So we mostly leave him alone in His upstairs apartment where he can watch TBN, The Gaithers, or his favorite series, The Chosen, in peace and quiet.

The Kingdom, of course, is exactly the opposite: God has moved right down into the midst of our stuff on the ground floor, and He moves throughout the house tinkering, laughing, helping out with our messes, or rolling up His sleeves to lend a hand with the science project. He also loves America’s Got Talent, and I think I even caught Him tapping his foot to one of my ragtime tunes on the piano.

There is NO Upstairs-Downstairs, but only one world where God and people live together!

This upstairs-downstairs idea has done immense damage to both the church and the world. At times it has kept me from reading good “non-religious” books, from expressing political opinions, and occasionally it even keeps me from enjoying too much laughter and good times with friends. But the saddest and most dangerous thing of all is in “partitioning” God off from the rest of life. The Kingdom means God has invaded all things with his presence. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” There is no division; neither upstairs nor downstairs. He inhabits it all.

7 thoughts on “Upstairs / Downstairs”

  1. Even better than your usual excellence! I think I know a place to republish this in a few months. The Kingdom perfectly captured in a few paragraphs.


  2. Thanks for the reminder, Don. Since I gave my life to Christ in 1976, the Lord has had free rein in every area of my life – my heart, my home, my health, my family, my livelihood – even when it caused others to disagree with me and pressure me to “follow the crowd”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside. It seems so basic, and yet much of the Church (or in many cases, the nominal church) has been formed by the world, and there’s not room for God either upstairs or downstairs. Right outside the front door is too close if it makes them have to think, study, and pray to discern what God is saying on issues they so easily keep him out of. So well said, Don.


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