Getting this out late today, because my day job has me in Nashville, Tennessee for a sales and marketing convention. But I figure, better late than never.Finishing up my look at the Beatitudes of Jesus. Rounding out Jesus’ list of those the world looks at as being “out”, outside the blessing of God, but He declares are “in” – into the kingdom of God which only He can bring.
Jesus has already told the poor in spirit listening, those spiritual zeroes, that despite their spiritual poverty theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Those who mourn, those who have been crushed into despair by life, they shall be comforted. The meek, those shy, intimidated, unassertive souls who feel like everything that goes wrong in the world must be their fault. Those who won’t assert even their legitimate claims unless driven into a corner, then lash out in a misguided, ineffectual rage that doesn’t change anything. Jesus says even they shall inherit the earth.
The spirit of the world blesses those who believe justice equals retribution and revenge. Jesus says Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. In the economy of God, justice is restorative not retributive. Jesus did not call down hailstones of fire upon those who crucified Him. He simply made us right with himself by and with God the Father while dying in the cross, crying out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 ESV. Jesus showed mercy to those who crucified Him, even though they were decidedly unmerciful to Him. But He was really simply demonstrating what he quoted at least twice – “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matthew 12:7 ESV
We see multiple times in the New Testament, Jesus freely forgiving sinners. Just forgiving them! No sacrifice, no blood, no bull. “And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”” Luke 7:48 ESV. “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”” Mark 2:5 ESV. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”” Luke 7:47 ESV. Sins forgiven simply on the basis of faith and love, no sacrifice involved. It was exactly this forgiveness of sins which got Jesus into trouble with people like the Pharisees and the scribes – “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”” Luke 5:21 ESV. But over and over again, Jesus lived out and walked His own teaching – “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” Matthew 9:13 ESV.
Outside of the kingdom of heaven, we might say “Woe to the merciful, for they shall be taken advantage of.” Outside the rule of God, there is little which could be more true. Dallas Willard shares the story of his parents, who went bankrupt and lost their clothing business in the early 1930s. These were the years of the depression, and they repeatedly gave people clothing “on credit” clearly knowing they would never be paid.
In Willard’s words – “The merciful are always despised by those who know how to “take care of business.” Yet outside the human order, under the great profusion of heaven’s goodness, they themselves find mercy to meet their needs, far beyond any “claim” they might have on God.”
The spirit of the world blesses those who can come up with the best schemes. But Jesus says – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. To “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” is not a scheme. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” is not a scheme. Those who are not pure in heart think everything is a scheme.
The spirit of the world blesses those who are good at war. Jesus says Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “God does not use violent means to obtain what he desires.” – Saint Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, part of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century. A disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John, the disciple of Jesus.
Outside the kingdom, peacemakers are called everything but a child of God. Ask your local police officer who’s been called to a domestic dispute. Little they do is more dangerous. They are caught in the middle. Both sides know that since they are not taking sides, they can’t be on their side in the me vs them confrontation. Because both sides are usually wrong anyway.
In the kingdom of God, in bringing good even to people who are wrong we are doing the family business. God is “…kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35 ESV. Peacemakers are dealing precisely with the ungrateful and the evil.
The spirit of the world blesses those who fight for might. Jesus says Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus blesses those who suffer for what is right. It might just be a temporary harassment, or they might lose everything, or they might be killed for refusing to be compliant with what is wrong in the world.
This is the call to discipleship. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 NLT. Take up your cross, your willingness to suffer, and follow Jesus. We can afford to suffer for what is right, because we serve Him whom God raised from the dead.
The spirit of the world blesses those who will say whatever they need to get by, regardless of what their true beliefs are. Jesus says “”Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 ESV. Blessed are those who’ve gone off the deep end following Jesus. The world might lie about you, laugh at you, and mock you, but Jesus says your reward will be great in heaven. This is how Jesus disciples were viewed at the time He preached this sermon…actually believing this carpenter from Nazareth was the messiah! Nothing good comes from Nazareth!
From human eyes, these are the most removed from God’s blessing. Precisely because…you are viewed as offensive to God. You’re way of seeing and relating to God is just…offensive. When they mock you, or even kill you, they think they are doing God a favor by shutting you up. “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” John 16:2 ESV. Jesus says be glad, because your imperishable reward in God’s kingdom is already reserved. You’re name may be mud with those baptized in the spirit of the world, but it’s counted in the book of life as a child of the most high God!!
“”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12 ESV