My oldest is five and is learning to read. I figured it best to put aside the World War 2 nonfiction book and try the bible instead, so last night we sat down and read the beatitudes. I tried to ask him what his favorite part was and frankly he wasn’t much help as he was having too much fun pointing out words he knew. Suffice to say, I started with the beatitudes because short of the greatest commandment, the beatitudes really sets up everything to follow doesn’t it?
“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 children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV)
I imagine that as Jesus is saying all of this, people are sitting in stunned silence. This, despite using the words “meek” and “children” is a salvo fired across the bow of humanity. This is a set of phrases that says “forget everything you know, it’s all wrong.” Start with the first line “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What? The losers? The losers own the kingdom? This was/is a shot at those that propagate God for their own benefit. If you reread Matthew you’ll see a Jesus that’s a bit surly. Mostly he’s annoyed with the religious establishment and the beatitudes makes that extremely clear.
The amazing part about this is that all of these words still have full application today. Yes I realize you’re thinking – well obviously it’s the bible, of course it’s relevant today. To that I say, yes thank you, but my point is this: we today are just as obsessed with advancing ourselves as they were then. When people claim humans are more selfish now, or more cynical, or yadda yadda whatever, I just think about the fact that Jesus came 2000 years ago and spoke truth that is still relevant today. Is there any doubt that he’d say the exact same thing to us today as he did then? Do we not still struggle with meekness? Do we not still struggle with thirsting for righteousness?
I told my brother in law that if I could nail down just a few of the beatitudes I would be a much better human. The other great part is that these build upon each other, look –
Poor in Spirit -> Mourning -> Meekness -> Hunger and Thirsting for Righteousness -> Merciful -> Pure in Heart -> Peacemakers -> Persecuted for Righteousness
So essentially those that are poor in spirit more than likely mourn that state. As you mourn and realize how poor in spirit you are, you become meek and humble, then in that state you are able to begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. As you search for that, you become merciful and as you show mercy and become mercy, you become pure in heart. As you become pure in heart through mercy, you become a peacemaker and then you are persecuted. Through all of that though you have the kingdom on your side. You have the full power, the keys, everything at your access. This, this is where the power of Jesus’ words become life, not only do you become a better human, you become a better saint. A better follower of Christ because more of the spirit is alive in you.
So where does this leave us? Where do we go from here (to quote Thom Yorke)? We start at the beginning, do we not? We need to come to Christ in brokenness, in our poor state. Get here and move forward with the power. Where are you?