Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Warning, It is Just Like He Said

I just had such an interesting experience with the Beatitudes today. The fact that they exist should be posted in the Christianity 101 pamphlet that churches hand out. “If you are considering following this man, Jesus, then you should know that He said this…

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely- on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:3-12, NRSV).

It really should be preceded by a giant warning sign. Christianity is not for the faint of heart. It guarantees tragedy and opposition. Our world asks us why bad things are happening, where is God? How could He allow the collapse of our homes and nation? The Beatitudes say to me that everything Jesus said about the world is true, and when we face wickedness, malice and oppression, we have the best responses at our disposal. There will be times when you are called upon to carry these traits into the work of the kingdom. Let’s look at them more carefully.

Those who are poor in spirit are simply humble. They seek no glory but that of the Father. Paul told us that in his weakness, he was strong. That is the heart of the poor in spirit. They do not seek this life for themselves, but only the will of the Lord. I see this in the heart of a good mother. They no longer live their lives for themselves, but the kingdom building that is happening in their homes. Do you see it in yourself? This is a great response.

There are times that you will mourn. You will mourn for the lost. You will mourn on behalf of people that you love. We mourn death. Mourning is a part of our lives. We mourn for opportunities lost, for the rejection of Christ. Women are able to feel this strongly. I think that it is our advantage when we confess our sins. True confession always involves some mourning. The act of repentance is one of mourning acts against the Father, yourself and others. It is a deep and powerful response to the realities of the world.

The next is, perhaps, the most important for a wife, and yes, I do think that it is an element of submission, perhaps the most important. Meekness is not a negative word, Christ was meek. In this instance, meekness took the most powerful man who ever lived and allowed Him to carry through the most significant event of history.

He did not strike down the guards with laser beams or create chaos for a dramatic escape. Christ meekly advanced to the cross and ascended to heaven. Meekness is controlled strength. It implies a discipline that one has learned to enhance strength of character. This person is unassuming because they are in control of who they are. They do not need to be the center of attention; in fact, they are filled and run over all on their own. In order to be submissive, we need to be meek. This gives us the power to be truly useful. It allows us to carry out the most important purpose that we can have in God’s kingdom, our intended purpose.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a state of the heart. It is a decision that we make every day. It rejects the world and recklessly follows after Jesus, desiring change resulting from encounter with Christ; and through prayer and the word, this only increase.

We have lots of opportunities to be merciful. Mercy is a rare commodity today. We need to be merciful in our homes, in our churches and in our workplaces. Mercy brings forgiveness. It brings equality. It demonstrates that we understand that we are all equally loved and jealously sought out by our Creator. Mercy allows real justice to happen. It sees in the hearts and minds of people and brings hope to darkness. Mercy is good.

If I could have only one, I would want to be pure in heart. It sounds kind of romantic, although only in title. These are people that are conscious of who they are, who they were. They keep their accounts short. They forgive and confess. They desire a pure, clean heart in front of a holy God. These are people who are willing to confess fault to their brother or sister. They are a true friend and a pleasure.

The peacemakers are refreshing. They will sit in the midst of a difficult situation and hone into the center of the message of Christ. Christianity is about relationships. It is about the relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is about our relationships in our homes and work. Those who are truly peacemakers are not gossipers. They are so wonderful. You never worry about stumbling around them. They keep all of their responses and retorts completely honorable. They desire only to bring the Spirit, shalom to tangible experiences.

The next two are kind of the worst and the best when it comes to the Beatitudes. This is not what we want to hear at all. If you are persecuted for something good…good. If people revile you, persecute you and say nasty things about you, throw a party. You have been so bothersome to the darkness of the world, that you have made a stir. You deserve backlash. How exciting for you.

So you see, these are elements of God's character, choices that we can make, that will result in restoration, mending, care and caution. They are the things that we should have on the tip of our tongues. I don’t believe that they are typologies, so much as states of the heart that connect with the resources of the Spirit. They are counter cultural and uncomfortable, but they are successful.

Father, let us understand the teaching that You gave us in our lives. Make it clear to us where we can call upon Your holiness to manifest pieces of Your character within us. Thank you for giving us the promises of your kingdom, in the middle of this life.

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