Matthew 5.1-12 (NASB)
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.
2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Just wanted to focus on these verses today … what a list. Looking at this list of “blessed” attributes, I don’t see these things on the list of things the world treasures, rewards, or strives for. Even in the Church, do we value these things? Are we drawn to leaders who are poor in spirit? those who mourn? merciful? peacemakers? Do we strive for these things ourselves? Do we consider ourselves blessed when people persecute us?
This last part makes me wonder. Christians, especially on the religious right, seem to take offense as being “persecuted” by others who don’t agree with us. We need laws to take back our schools, or enforce our ideas of right conduct, they say. According to Jesus, we should be glad! We should rejoice that people are offended by us! We should stand out as different and unique. Our behavior should challenge them. But Jesus says it should be the attitudes and actions on this list that should offend them … not our obnoxious yelling! Note also, the prophets were persecuted for speak, primarily, to God’s people, not the heathens. (In fact, the few, like Jonah, who spoke to the heathens were generally better received than those who spoke to God’s people.) I don’t see here, or precedence anywhere, for us to moralize at society, other than by our example. It is weird, how things have seemingly gotten distorted.
I am disturbed by the lack of these attributes within the Church as a whole. Where are the peacemakers? Why are the self-proclaimed Christians we generally see on the national stage generally not peacemakers, merciful, or gentle? Isn’t that what Christ says we should be like? Isn’t that what Christ was like? How are we “little Christ’s” or His disciples if we don’t aspire to the attributes that He espouses clearly here? We argue from obscure statements or omissions in other passages and ignore the clear call here to make peace, be gentle, and show mercy. Instead we disdain those who don’t meet our standards and show judgment not mercy. We try to impose our standards on those outside the family of faith, and show no gentleness or attempt to make peace. How sad. I admit I have found myself in the same boat. I feel convicted by these verses. They should be more than a comfort when we are the downtrodden, or going through a tough time … “Look, I’m going to be blessed through this.” But then times improve, we rebound, and forget the list. Shouldn’t I still be striving to be like this?
God never tells me I’m blessed if I force a “sinner” (like myself!) to adhere to biblical standards without changing their heart. I am to love them, not control them. I need to help their heart condition, not manipulate their actions. I belong to a Kingdom that is not of this world. A Kingdom that asks me to follow a Messiah who served, who gave Himself up voluntarily to pay my debt. He never manipulated or looked down on others. The only people who seemed to resent Him were the Pharisees and other who worried that He undermined their authority. The common “sinner” loved Him, and couldn’t help but want to hang out with Him. Are we like that? I’m not. I cannot help but think that this is my fault, not theirs. If I met the attributes of this list, and looked like Christ, I should attract everyone, as He did.
Lord, help me to look like Your Son. May I seek to develop these attributes in my life. I need to learn to make peace, not start arguments. I need to be gentle, not blunt and forceful. I need to be poor in spirit, not haughty and prideful about how blessed I am and how “rich” I am. I need to mourn for the wounds of those around me that grieve You, and not be glad I don’t have their problems and rejoice about my blessings. I need to ask myself how I can show others the mercy You have shown me. May I keep my heart, and affections, pure and undivided. Give me a hunger and thirst after You and Your righteousness. Don’t let me hide from persecution, as long as it is for following Your plan for me. May I not compromise my reliance on Your guidance and perfect plan for me in an attempt to have the world say nice things about me. Guide me, Father, as I seek to become Your disciple in more than word or name. May my actions please You as I become who You created me to be, as I rely on Your Spirit’s help.