The Beatitudes is one of the better known passages from the New Testament. They are the beginning, or prelude, to what we call the “Sermon on the Mount.” They are in the Gospel of Matthew.
Jesus’ primary mission was to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God, and that Jesus was the personification of what it meant to live life in God’s Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount outlines what we can do to live the Kingdom life. The Beatitudes are the prelude, or summary of what it means to recognize someone living in God’s Kingdom.
The nine Beatitudes, or “blessings,” are broken into three sections. Contrary to the notion that they represent characteristics of different people on their faith journey, they describe the process by which we become followers of Christ.
The first three are:
• “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 shall inherit the earth.”
When we realize we have put our faith into many different places, or things such as money, power, prestige and so forth, and we realize that we are still left wanting for something more, we come face to face with our poverty of Spirit. Recognizing our poverty of Spirit leads us to mourn, to mourn what we have lost, mourn what we have become, mourn what we have missed in life.
But we find comfort in our mourning, which leads to humility, or meekness. Now meekness is not being a doormat! It is recognizing that without God we can do nothing, and that placing our trust in other things to find meaning is ultimately lacking.
The next three are:
• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake for they will be satisfied.”
• “Blessed are the merciful for mercy shall be theirs.”
• “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”
In response to this new awareness, we begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. In Scripture the words righteousness and justice mean the same thing: God’s desire for healing and reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration of wholeness for the human community.
And that leads to the practice of mercy. To be merciful is to emphasize with and advocate for the well-being of all those who are in need, physically and spiritually. Acts of mercy lead to purity of heart. To be pure in heart is to place your life completely into God’s hands. It is the affirmation of the one God. There is no room for other gods in our lives.
The last three are:
• “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”
• “Blessed are those who are persecuted for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
• “Blessed are you when people revile you on my account.”
We are called to be peacemakers. It isn’t enough that we have peace. The peace of Christ is something to be shared. But this takes courage because there will always be pushback from the powers of violence and hate. We will face persecution of some kind. People will revile us, and oppress us because of our faith in Jesus. After all, isn’t that what happened to Jesus? Should we expect any less?
In our day and age we won’t necessarily experience physical violence, although some of our brothers and sisters truly do. Ours is more often the loss of friendships, public humiliation, marginalization, disrespect.
And when that happens what does Jesus say to do? Rejoice! He says to rejoice! Because we have been welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Here and now. Not later on when we die. Here and now. God is here and now.
And we are blessed.
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.