Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reflecting on the Beatitudes

by M. J. Joachim

I opened up my Bible today and this is what I read, “What values of society do the Beatitudes challenge?”

From Matthew 5

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The first thing I notice about the Beatitudes is that the first and last each promise the kingdom of heaven to those who suffer. The only thought that readily comes to mind regarding society today is that we all suffer in some way, shape or form, so the kingdom of heaven will one day belong to each and every one of us.

The next thought that occurs to me is that I’ve never met a person who didn’t cry. Mourning is a natural human condition that happens when people feel a sense of loss. Doesn’t this too, apply to each and every one of us?

Meekness, on the other hand is a little bit different. Rebellious and haughty spirits will not receive much for their anger and opposition. Gentle spirits, calm heads will prevail, especially when it counts.

People hunger and thirst for righteousness all the time. The question that needs to be asked is, “Whose righteousness and how does it affect their opposition?” One man’s righteousness is another man’s trial and affliction. Don’t just take my word for it. I’m sure many of us have been on both sides of this beatitude, fighting for the sake of fighting, fighting for a cause that will help or hurt many more lives than our own, fighting for our own freedom at the expense of our brother’s. The news is full of stories where both sides of a dispute agree no one is the winner, when the verdict is finally revealed.

Mercy, kindness, compassion, love - these are things the world is in dire need of in today's society. How is it that we have reversed their meaning, to sympathize with those who violate other human beings? How is it that we re-victimize victims, in the name of justice and finding the truth? Nobody is right if everybody's wrong, but nobody's wrong if everybody is right either. Are we not obligated to take a stand at times, addressing errors which will likely lead to more errors, or at the very least, minimize the pain of another, because we simply don't choose to stand up for what is right?

Cleanliness of heart, purity - sex sells, violence is cool, especially in video games and action adventure movies. Common sense is practically not common at all anymore. It’s probably a good thing they close our eyes when we die, because not many of us will be able to see God anyway.

Is there such a thing as a peacemaker in our world today? It almost seems as if everything creates a battlefield, and we all are enlisted to fight for whichever side we deem best meets our own personal needs and desires. What is peace, if not something we preserve in our individual hearts? For it is only there that we can truly hear the voice of God, when we are silent enough to actually listen to what He is saying to us.

The saddest thing of all is that too many of us persecute each other in the name of God, but there is nothing godly or Christian about our actions. We are not actively being God’s servants when we do this. We are fighting for our will be done, not “Thy Will Be Done.” We get persecuted and in turn persecute the person or people persecuting us. This is how it is in today’s society. Most of the time it’s not even about who is right and who is wrong, but about who is victorious in getting their own way, regardless of the means they use to get it.

We’ve strayed a long way from the promises of God. The farther down the path we go, the more we end up trying to fix where we just came from, not so much for the glory of God, but more likely because we didn’t look at the bigger picture and reacted on impulse, without considering the consequences of our actions.

I didn’t mean for this post to go in such a dark and dreary direction today. The Beatitudes usually give me promises of hope when I read them. Today, however, they shine a light on our human condition, calling us out for being guilty of not loving our fellow man as we love ourselves, and being willing to sink to the depths of ingratitude to prove it.

Claiming we are Christian is one thing. Being Christian is a matter of the heart. For only the heart reveals the true nature of man, and God alone has the power to change it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share them in the comments. Thank you.

Also, I’d like to invite you all to the new Effectively Human Google+ Community I created yesterday. Please stop by and see if it’s something you might be interested in joining. Hope to see you there.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Sermon on the Mount, Jan Brueghel, the Elder (1568 - 1625), Getty Center, PD-US