This is a picture I posed on Facebook recently and had such rich discussion. As I’m coming up with training videos on how to memorize the Sermon on the Mount, it has compelled me to think through what the beatitudes really mean, and what they look like in a concrete, non-ethereal form. Not as easy as it sounds. What does it look like for someone who hungers and thirst for righteousness to be filled?
I think too that every beatitude was a slap in the face to a common, cultural norm that said that this condition was anything but blessed.
Blessed are the poor in spirit–The poor in spirit is someone who is humble before God and has a clear recognition of who he is. And yet every culture on earth admires the man who pretends he has no weakness and is tough, self-made and able to handle himself in all situations. Jesus said that he came for the sick, not the healthy. He came for those who knew their spiritual poverty, not those who don’t think they have such a condition.
Blessed are those who mourn–Contextually I am coming to believe that this isn’t just about loss of a loved one and the grief of natural mourning, but a grief that recognizes my own unrighteousness and the unrighteousness of the world around me. This isn’t the pessimistic, cynical person that is wowed by evil and always want to tell you ‘how terrible it’s getting in the world.’ This is the person who see that evil and genuinely grieves it and how it is effecting people. Culturally there have always been the people who have shouted, ‘Peace, peace’ when peace was a facade for cancer. “Blessed” are those with a righteous grief for Christ will deal with this at the cross. At the cross is justice and righteousness that bears fruit for eternity.
Blessed are the meek–Meekness is ‘bridled strength’ or ‘strength under control.’ People who have power but don’t use it are often considered weak. Self-control isn’t exactly a marketable tool. Power. Indulgence. Gain. This is the mantra. Yet those with great power who retrain themselves until the proper time are actually more powerful. Jesus says they will “inherit the earth.” THEY are the ones who are blessed.
Blessed are the merciful–How many sports movies have we seen where someone one on the team cries out “No Mercy!” Or when there’s been a crime the victim is said to “go for the jugular.” Merciful people aren’t always seen as strong. Yet mercy requires more strength than judgment. Judgment comes easily. Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure in heart–Try to live any form of purity and right away you will be called “naive.” Purity being not so much staying from evil but rather having a heart that has no guile. ‘If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.’ And they will see God because they already see God in every child and in every act of kindness. They aren’t naive as culture would call them. They are pure in heart and God calls that “blessed.”
Blessed are the peacemakers–War is often on the plate of many. It might not be war with guns but war with words and war in relationships that keep score of right and wrong and war with how we think towards others. Peace-makers not peace-keepers. Peacekeepers want no conflict whatever the cost. Peace-makers are unafraid to confront in order to bring reconciliation. Peace-keeping shushes both sides. Peace-makers deal with the issues. The world says, ‘make your enemy fear you.’ Jesus says, ‘love your enemies.’
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness–When someone is being “persecuted” it is usually because something they’re doing is unacceptable socially. There is a lot of shame for the person, for the families and for those around them. Jesus called them blessed who stood for righteousness.
Jesus turned the world upside down and began with blessing people who society treated anything but blessed. As Paul writes, ‘they belong to a country not their own….therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.’