Monday, December 11, 2006

The Beatitudes, our instructions from Jesus Christ

The Beatitudes

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What is a beatitude? Of course, it is a word easily associated with any of the declarations made in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:3-11, beginning with "Blessed are". But, it is also a state of utmost bliss (Latin, beatitudo.) When Jesus spoke these beatitudes, he was giving us the instructions for living in a state of utmost bliss, or peace. Many people can point to these verses and say 'I'm so there.' Unfortunately, they often miss the mark on the principles behind these wonderful verses.

What does it mean to be 'poor in spirit'? It doesn't mean lacking spirituality, or even downtrodden.... nothing negative Poor in spirit means humble. The humble shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Humility is the very first thing Christ speaks of, with good reason! Not all who cry out 'Lord, Lord' will be heard. It takes a humble heart to put one's self last and God first. It takes a humble nature to speak the words of the Lord without sounding self-righteous or patronizing. To be humble is to be neither proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive. A state of humbleness is a state of being where the person puts other people first, puts themselves in another person's shoes, and tries to have compassion for others. It is speaking to someone in a way that will not insult or be viewed as aggressive for the sole purpose of proving a point. The self-righteous say "you are a sinner! Repent!", while the humble says "We are all sinners, but God gives us Salvation."

Jesus says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." There is no shame in mourning. To mourn is to show grief or sorrow. It does not have to be a display of grief usually seen at funerals. We can mourn the loss of a friendship. We can mourn that a person we love is going astray. We can mourn for just about anything... a humble person, who has compassion for those around them, is capable of feeling another's sorrow. When a Christian mourns, they often turn to prayer. And, through prayer, we do find comfort. Mourning is a sign of compassion.

"Blessed are the meek," Jesus continues, "For they will inherit the earth." Being meek is not the same as being humble! Meekness, although seen in modern times as a negative thing, is actually a very strong quality. Yes, it does mean to be without strength or violence, and it also means lacking courage. When Jesus used it, it was defining positive quality: enduring injury with patience and without resentment! Christ is urging us to endure things. To suck it up, and let it go. To take the abuse, threats, insults, and animosity... and then to let the feelings of bitterness and anger slip through our fingers like sand. Many people will hurt us in our lifetimes, but we can not hold a grudge against every person who harms us. Resentment eats away at us, holding us back from happiness. Once we turn over a new page and do away with resentment, we can inherit the bounty of the earth. For example, to be meek is to be someone who endures harassment in chat, and then forgives quietly, so that the next day, old bitterness is not brought up again (ps to that... using the ignore feature is not a sign of lacking courage... it is keeping yourself meek and humble, so that you are not tempted to throw aside the first three beatitudes and embark on a campaign of vengeance against those who hurt you.)

Jesus says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Please note: it does not say self-righteousness, or blessed are the righteous. The righteousness we hunger for is not of this world. It is the hunger for God's righteousness. It is the desire to walk in that righteousness in our personal lives. It is not bringing God's righteousness to others, because we are, after all, human beings and not God. When we seek God's righteousness, we tend to live a life that is spiritually uplifting and positive. In return, God gives us spiritual wisdom and strength. We become a light of Christ at this point, having adopted these first few beatitudes in our daily living.

Jesus knew that living a good life would not be easy. He went on to say "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Sometimes we forget ourselves... we begin to think of ourselves as perfect people, and we forget that we are still, in the end, just humble sinners who have turned to God for Salvation. We are no better than anyone else... because we are human and prone to making mistakes. So, Jesus adds the "be merciful" at this point. We should always show others mercy. It ties in with being humble, and being meek. Showing mercy is not simply sparing someone from your sword tip. Showing mercy is showing compassion towards someone who offends you. It is also showing compassion to those in distress.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." How do we become pure in heart? The word pure means 'unmixed with any other matter'. If we allow God to rule our hearts, instead of our own issues, we find life becomes very peaceful. Do we hold grudges in our hearts? Do we hold envy? Are we proud? Are we self-centered? We can not shove God into a corner of our hearts, or out of our hearts, and still expect we will see him in heaven someday.

Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." No, this does not mean a peaceful person is a Christ. It does mean that we will reflect the light of Christ. We will reflect Christ's example. We will be God's children, obeying his laws and living a life that is wonderful, spiritually. I'm often asked how I could be friendly to a sinner, or why I don't bash a sinner for their sins. It is simple... I am a peacemaker, or I try to be. Only through peace can we gain understanding. To make peace, we have to have a humble heart, compassion for others, and a desire to keep God in our hearts. We may not 'convert' anyone to Christianity. We not even be able to convince someone they are in sin. But, we will leave an impression in their minds, and an impression in their hearts. To make peace we have to offer peace. To keep peace, we have to keep the beatitudes Jesus gave us as paramount in our daily lives.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is a biggie. Jesus does not say "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of self-righteousness!" nor does it say "Blessed are the Pharisee, who command the laws be followed while neglecting their own sins!" This verse does not mean we have unlimited license to debase, abuse, bash or torment people we think are in sin. It does not mean we can shred them with bible verses that say others are evil. It doesn't mean we can behave in God's place and judge. It says, very simply, blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. If you keep all the other beatitudes, you will be in righteousness (God's!)

Jesus ends the Beatitudes by saying, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Now, if you are acting like a total git, or Pharisee, and belittling folks in God's name, this verse does NOT apply to you. If you are hold a spiritual gun to someone's head, demanding they turn to Christ or else suffer your wrath, this verse also does not apply. When you act like an ass, people will respond back the same way. If you insult, you will be insulted. If you persecute, you will have every wrong thing you have ever done thrown back in your face. If you use Jesus to punish people because of their own sins (and forget that, by doing so, you are also in sin), you can't hold this last verse up as your saving glory and expect anyone to take you seriously. However, if you keep the other Beatitudes, follow them, live them, and show them, this verse does apply to you. A humble, compassionate person who seeks God's righteousness, while enduring hardships (by showing mercy instead of vengeance), will have a pure heart and be a true peacemaker, even though they are spit upon for all their efforts to follow the Beatitudes... this verse applies to them. Jesus could have just said that last, complex sentence, but instead, he took the time to spell it all out for us during his sermon.

Only one life will soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last. For me, to live, is Christ.

Matthew 5:1-11

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."


Anonymous said...

Seems our thoughts were on the same suject today. No matter how we've been hurt, it is necessary to forgive. Seems lately it has gotten harder when bashed for just
being ourselves, but perhaps this is a trial? Do know I love the Lord with all my heart and soul, and I want to do all I can humanly can to live as he has taught...follow in his footsteps.
So although my heart is heavy I will do as he says do, so will you.
May God give us the strength and courage we need at this time.

Anonymous said...

Do you remember A Clockwork Orange? It would be wonderful if some of the fanatics from certain online chat rooms would read this post of yours. I feel they are the ones who most need to comprehend that it is their attitude that is sinful and against what Jesus told us to do. So perhaps we could tie them to their little chairs, hold their eyes open and force them to read some wise words.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Wow Thane,
Some tremendous insights there, takes more than just reading. As God was laying the beatitudes on my heart and I was studying them, not as applying to others, but applying to myself,it was with a deep searching heart. I needed discernment. To what extent do I, as a mirror, reflect Christ in chat and to what extent do i merely reflect self. I stand soundly reproved when I consider that every single caustic remark or dig to others, designed to hurt, is myself, presenting to chat, a snapshot of what Jesus isnt. Then as I was sharing in chat some of my musings, you were apparently drawn to the same words of Jesus. more than coincidence? You have done a bang up job of presenting this brother. You have laid it out in such a way that it causes any heart, truly hungering after rightousness, to pause and do a careful self examination of these truths. any who read your treatment of this and allow it to bring others to mind instead of self, need to deal with a judgemental attitude in prayer and then start again. The three fingers pointing back at us are the ones Jesus was speaking to. May God richly bless you as you endeaver to serve. Jer1v7

Anonymous said...

hi thane I never really studied the beautitudes until i read your blog. keep up the good work!!

David W. Shelton said...

Thank you for this post! I only regret not having read it sooner. The heart of God is revealed in the beatitudes and the challenge is walking in them.

Again, thank you.