I think we all have times when it seems that our world has been turned topsy-turvy. I think we all have times when we aren’t quite sure which way to go or how best to proceed…
We might cry out to God and wonder where He has gone or why He is letting things be so crazy, but then we remember that God hasn’t left our side even for a minute. He is always there for us to lean on, for us to draw strength and courage from… and then we look directly at Him and things become more clear.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Take heart, for God is near! Even though we can’t always quite figure things out, we can have the courage to get back on the road and move forward because He renews our strength. Even though we may not know exactly the best thing to do at any moment, we can be strong in the knowledge that we are not going alone.
In verse 10, Jesus said that those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed; here He gets personal, for now He isn’t referring to someone else, or some group of individuals, now it is about “you”. People may speak all sorts of evil against us as followers of Jesus; what should our reaction be should we pop ‘em right in the mouth?
It wouldn’t seem so; Jesus says we should “rejoice and be glad”, of all things.
Really? We should rejoice and be glad when people are speaking against us because of our faith in Christ?
Yes we should, for great is our reward in heaven.
Jesus didn’t exactly say so here, but our reward here on earth won’t be so bad, since it is a relationship with Him. In the old days, people spoke against the prophets in the same way that they spoke of Jesus’ followers; both were persecuted, sometimes killed in the process, but they seemed to be OK with all that, for they knew that they had a great reward awaiting them, and because they, like Abraham, believed God’s promises.
So now we conclude the Beatitudes, with an implied question dangling: The prophets believed God’s promises and endured. The early Christians believed God’s promises and endured. Do we believe God’s promises?
As a rule, do you expect to see a righteous person persecuting another person because the persecuted person is righteous? My guess is “probably not.” If this is true, then what sort of person persecutes another because they are righteous? Again, my guess is that it would have to be an unrighteous person; it stands to reason, right?
God does not bless unrighteousness.
Righteousness happens when a person lives in accordance with the will of God, and when a person lives this way, he or she is considered by God to be “righteous”, and relationship between that person and God is in place; thus in this life such a person is blessed. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven in the here and now, in spite of persecution and they are blessed for all eternity.
We have already seen that as Jesus went forth proclaiming the Kingdom, that healing, and restoration of wholeness went in His wake, for the restoration of wholeness, including the restoration of relationships torn by the hostility of this world is something within the very character of God. A peacemaker is someone who places a high priority on restoring relationships, even with those considered to be enemies; this is also what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
On the other hand, many, maybe even most people of this world are not peacemakers. Look around you, this world is not a peaceful place, for people vie with each other for riches, for position and advantage. Such people are not making peace and restoring relationships, except for personal gain; this is not the behavior of a disciple, and thus the blessing of a restored relationship with God is not present in the here and now, and it is not likely to be found in the hereafter unless changes are made.
For the disciple, blessing in great supply is to be found in restoring wholeness and relationships; it is its own reward, and as a disciple the eternal future is both assured and very bright, for there will be blessing beyond imagination in store.
The expression “pure in heart” refers to a person whose inner most thoughts, motivation and purpose are pure, clean, wholesome and good; this is the one who will see God. To see God is to believe in God, and even more basic, they believe God; such a person is blessed indeed.
The person who is not pure in heart will not see God, possibly because he would rather not see Him. The person who is not pure in heart is one whose inner motivations are not wholesome or good, but are more likely centered on self, gain and getting what they want at whatever cost; they are not blessed because there is little room in their lives for a relationship with Him.
Mercy is the most fundamental aspect of our relationship with God. We only have a relationship with God because of His tremendous mercy, for without it, we are permanently estranged from Him. Thus, Jesus teaches mercy on our parts as a foundational requirement of being His disciple.
We have received His mercy; we are to show mercy to others when the occasion arises. We have received His love; we are to show love to others. How can we show mercy without love, and love without mercy? Yes, this is fundamental.
The person who has received God’s mercy and who shares God’s mercy with others, both through the Gospel and through our own attitudes and actions, will in the end, receive mercy when those who have refused it receive God’s judgment; this is also a fundamental truth.
Now we come to the reversal of this: What kind of person does not show mercy to others?
The ruthless, the cruel, the inhumane, the purely evil…
Will they receive mercy: of course not, they will be judged. Will they be blessed in this life by relationship with God? No, for they live in open rebellion against Him. Will they receive mercy in the end? No, they will receive justice instead.
I doubt that I need to discuss what it means to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” so let’s jump directly to what will become of the one who has no such desire. I think we can safely assume that the one who has no such desire will not be blessed, and one who hungers and thirsts for wickedness will not only find what they are looking for, but they will also find God’s curse in His judgment. Such a person will always need to be looking over his shoulder, will be running from the law, and will seldom have a restful night’s sleep; if they are lucky, they’ll live long enough to die from stress related illness, if not they will die by the sword. Anybody want to sign up for that?
As with the other beatitudes, there is an apocalyptic element to this (see Isaiah 61). God’s ultimate gift to Mankind is the gift of righteousness, for when Jesus returns and culminates his Church, all evil will be eliminated and the righteous will abide eternally in His Kingdom without pain, suffering, oppression or death: Blessed indeed!