Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beatitudes


Pastor Ron Hindt covered the Beatitudes. I’ve read them many times before, but (as usual) Pastor Ron brought some clarity and revelation to the verses. He covered verses 5-12 today, and I missed last week at Calvary, so I didn’t hear what he had to say about verses 1-4. Here are the relevant verses though.

Matthew 5: 3-12 (NIV)

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 The word for Blessed can also be translated as “Oh, how happy” which is why you will sometimes get a preacher talking about the Beatitudes with “Oh, how happy are the poor in spirit,” but I don’t hear that very often.

The emphasis in the Beatitudes is on being instead of doing. (BE-attitudes, not DO-attitudes.) A Christian is someone who is something before he or she does something. This goes back to a lot of discussions I have had in the past where I spoke with people about core values and who they are, instead of just what they do. I’ve known many people who do good things, but they are not necessarily good people.




“Blessed are the merciful…” Pastor spoke about how we, as a society, seem to have abandoned mercy as a characteristic. Many of our most popular movies and novels center on the theme of revenge. In fact, there is a television series currently called “Revenge.” This hasn’t changed much since the days Jesus walked in the city of Jerusalem. The Romans considered mercy to be a weakness, not a virtue. In fact, they considered themselves merciful when they flogged someone with one less than the standard forty lashes (therefore, only thirty-nine). The fathers also had an interesting right during the birth of their children. If the child was unacceptable for any reason the father simply gave the “thumbs-down” and the infant was taken out and drowned. That seems extremely harsh to us, as civilized human beings.

I recall a time when I was in one of my graduate classes and the inevitable discussion of relative or absolute morality came up. I cannot think of any class where I had an ally for holding to the concept of absolute morality. In this one class the instructor final asked me “So where do we start, if morality is actually absolute instead of relative?” “Well,” I replied, “some things are pretty universal. Hammurabi’s laws and the Ten Commandments both give good guidelines that people hold to be valid. For instance, both say not to kill.” A woman in my class spoke up and said “Well, I wouldn’t kill a baby, but if a mother or father in Africa kills a child because they are the wrong sex or they can’t feed it, then who am I to say they are wrong?”

I’m sure my mouth dropped open and I said nothing else during that discussion. Most of the time, in my graduate classes, I was simply patronized as the barely literate, likeable and tolerated conservative who just had not yet advanced enough to realize the error of his ways.

As I said, Roman fathers had the right to condemn a new-born to death at birth. Though we see it as beastly (at least I hope most of us do) we should be aware that since 1975 over fifty-five million abortions have been performed in this country. That’s fifty-five million citizens of working age we do not have beside us in the workplace. From a government perspective, that’s fifty-five million taxable people we do not have on the rolls. How much would our government financial situation be different if these children were not aborted? Was there a researcher unborn who would have found a cure for cancer? A researcher unborn who might have solved the world’s energy problems? A politician unborn who was honest and upright? (Okay, that one is a stretch…)

The point is we don’t deem mercy to be as honorable as we think we do.

“…for they will receive mercy…” Pastor Ron pointed out that this is not reciprocity. We do not dispense mercy with the expectation what others will be merciful to us. In fact, we are merciful because we must be merciful. The mercy given to us is from God alone. Titus 3:5 specifically points out the mercy bestowed on us.

“Blessed are the pure in heart…” How many of us can truly make that claim? Pastor gave staggering statistics of people enslaved by immoral thoughts and actions. For instance, experts estimate that children between the ages of eight and eighteen are exposed to 93,000 sexual connotations on television in that ten year period. That’s probably true. You cannot watch television for an entire hour without seeing advertisements that use sex to sell their wares. The sad part is that they do it because sex sells. Think about the difference between television when you were young and now. It isn’t just the sex, it’s the violence and the language. I am distraught by the foul language used in otherwise potentially good movies. A recent movie we watched was “Loopers” and I liked the plot, but the language ruined it for me. Really, did they need to use the F-word throughout the film? “Oh, it makes it more realistic,” some argue. I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies to be entertained, not subjected to realism. I get enough reality in my day-to-day life. “There’s nothing wrong with bad language. It’s simply a word, and words are meaningless, except for what society uses as a label.” I’ve heard that one before too, but it doesn’t wash with me.

Pure in heart. That’s a tough one. Pastor said we should memorize the first six words of a bible verse. (Memorize? Really? I can’t memorize anything. That just doesn’t work for me… C’mon, get a grip. Six words should be easy for all of us.) 2Tim2:22 (and I love the address) “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness…”

We cannot pursue righteousness and not flee youthful lusts, can we? Some Christians think they can. One of the more sad statistics Pastor gave us was that 53% of Christian men viewed on-line pornography. I can see how that happens; pornography is simply one click away while you are on a computer. Flee, indeed.

“… for they will see God.” Yes, this obviously refers to the future time when we are allowed to finally be in the presence of God. It also refers to now. Those with a pure heart (or striving for one, presumably) will see the actions of God in other people, in the church community and in the world. That’s a nice reward. One of my favorite (and scariest) prayers is “Lord, show me this through your eyes.” Don’t pray that lightly, though.


“Blessed are the peacemakers…” Peacemakers first get right with God, then they help others get right with God, then they help others get right with each other. I wish I was a better peacemaker. Most people are not really peacemakers, though. They are peace lovers. They are willing to accept peace on their terms. Think about that. “God, I’m willing to follow you if you…” “I’ll accept your apology if…” Again the Bible can pinpoint the cause of this pseudo peacemaker. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes,” say Prov 21:2 (NASB)

Rom 12:18 (part of the Romans 12 chapter that my two youngest memorized when they were younger) says “Whatsoever you do, so much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (I’m quoting that as I remember it, so bear with me on the exactness, please.) That’s one of my favorite verses. We are required to do whatever we can to be at peace, but we have to acknowledge that some people will never like us, never listen to us – never be at peace with us. Do what you can, but know when to move on.

“… for they will be called children of God” Pastor noted that this has nothing to do with salvation. Being a peacemaker means that others will recognize what you do, recognize (hopefully) that you are a child of God. Indeed, in my experience, people who are true peacemakers are rare enough that I often think they are not of this world. And I’m right.


Pastor pointed out the process of growth implied by the Beatitudes. You start at the first one and move toward being a peacemaker, each step a little harder than the previous.  

The poor in spirit realize they need salvation, something to fill that void in their heart and cry out to God, who freely gives them the gift of salvation. Knowing salvation, we recognize how we fall short and mourn for that, but are provided comfort in the knowledge that the Blood of the Savior Jesus cleansed us. Knowing that we have been given a great fit, we are humbled and meek (which is harnessed strength, not weakness) and we inherit the earth (okay, I missed last week, so I’m not sure about that one). At this point we hunger and thirst for more knowledge of God, and God provides that. Given mercy, we learn to extend mercy. We strive for a clean heart and see the fingerprints of God in His world and His people. We step up and become peacemakers, Ambassadors of God on this earth. I never thought of the Beatitudes in that light before.

And what is the reward for being diligent and pursing righteousness in a corrupt world? We are persecuted. And we are to rejoice in this persecution. Why? Because our reward is great in Heaven and we’re in good company, the company of the prophets and saints who came before us.

There are a few caveats here. Persecution has to be false. I recall a story of a guy who worked in a shoe store. During his break he would go read his Bible in the break room. Often he spent five or ten extra minutes during his break doing this. When his boss criticized him he pointed out that he was being persecuted for his faith. Nope. He was persecuted because he spent too much time on his break! Be clear on this; the persecution must be for the sake of God and false. As Pastor pointed out, many people are persecuted not because they are being faithful but because they are being obnoxious about their faith. There’s a big difference.

I wish I could end this message on a high note, but it’s a tough message. And the Beatitudes are only the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There’s so much more to come!

God bless you all!

No comments:

Post a Comment