This is GOOD NEWS! This isn’t a new set of rules to obey, but freedom to be EXPERIENCED.
Not long ago a blog post entitled “The One Thing Christians should stop Saying” went so viral that it was picked up & re-published by the Huffington Post. In it, Presbyterian missionary Scott Dannemiller states that Christians should stop saying we’re “blessed.” Read the blog to see his point.
He makes one. Personally, I’m not sure – even as he’s using the word “blessed” – that I agree with it… I see his heart, but Matthew 5:45 states that God makes “…the rain fall on the just and the unjust“… the very idea of common grace means that EVERYONE has something to feel thankful for, & in that sense – instead of abandoning a good, English word, just because it’s been mis-used – let’s clean it up and use it correctly. It’s a good word.
However, my struggle with his blog goes deeper – at the point in which he quotes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in conventional wording;
“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, 2 and He began to teach them, saying:
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 after righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall 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 the sons 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.”” (Matt 5: 1-12)
It’s one of my favorite Scriptures… & one of the LEAST understood. I always struggled with this passage as a young Christian. Having not been raised in a religious home, I had no background for the Bible, so when I first read the Sermon on the Mount I didn’t have the “theological baggage” or the “Church Lens” to see it through – and the first time I sat in a sermon where the pastor tried to explain it, I saw right through it. I thought, “This guy is REACHING.” That was, until I read Dallas Willard. He clarified what I had already thought: we were getting it all wrong.
First, teaching as though the Biblical word MEANS the same thing as the English word “Blessed” causes some problems, because the most literally the word would be “happy” or “fortunate”… re-read that whole section like this: “HAPPY are those who are persecuted… HAPPY are the peace-makers… HAPPY are the poor…” Doesn’t make a lot of sense how we normally read it, does it?
That’s because we’ve been reading Jesus’ words here as a check-list. We muscle upon a feeling of being “spiritually poor” so we can – in turn – go to Heaven, with little clue as to what “spiritually poor” means, or that Heaven isn’t even MENTIONED in the passage. We make great effort to create a condition within ourselves that will earn a reward from God. But that CAN’T be right, because we’re SAVED BY GRACE – not by works
That’s us doing the VERY THING Jesus came to STOP!
REMEMBER: this is GOOD NEWS! This isn’t a new set of rules to obey, but freedom to be EXPERIENCED.
Jesus is describing those he saw around him in the crowd, & speaking directly to them. As Jesus is prone to do (NOTE: the church should as well), He attracted the broken & the needy. Many who stood there were spiritually destitute, and some financially destitute as well. Many were misfits, outcasts, & rejected – some for who they were, & others because of whom they followed. None of them had it all together. Yet they were “blessed” because – at that moment (& soon, & in a way they couldn’t possibly yet understand, ALWAYS) – God had come TO THEM.
In THAT moment they stood there in the presence of the Almighty – God-with-skin-On – Jesus, the true King – ushering in His Kingdom right before their eyes.
Jesus is saying; “I see you – I see you where you are – I see you AS you are… and I’m HERE… God is HERE WITH YOU!” You are BLESSED! You THINK your brokenness, your destitution, your depression, your anger, your bitterness – you believe you are CURSED, but it’s not TRUE! God is HERE – he’s WITH YOU!
And quite literally, He was – He IS.
Jesus was turning everyone’s expectations upside down. They had thought that if they were rich or did everything right, then that was the sign that God was blessing them. But, Jesus said no to that. Our state of blessedness is not dependent upon what we do but upon who God is. The facts are, He has come to all of us, even the spiritually destitute – even those who mourn.
And what do we do? Take the good news, & try to make another “law”. Christians TRY to beat ourselves into being “spiritually poor” – we try to find something to be sad about so we can mourn – we court persecution, thinking that if we AREN’T being persecuted by non-Christians that we’re somehow failing in our faith.
But God’s blessing come through Jesus, so if we KNOW Jesus, we’ve got it already – there’s nothing to do to earn it The good news of the Kingdom is that JESUS IS KING, & our King has come to all of us – even the broken!
The point of the Beatitudes of Jesus are this: there is NO ONE too far – there is no one too lost – there is no one so broken, that God cannot – will not -come to them… there is no one God will not pursue.
You’re not better for being poor, but – and this was big in Jesus day, especially – you are also no worse for being poor. THE RULE & REIGN OF ALMIGHTY GOD IS AVAILABLE TO YOU EVEN IN LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT SEEM BEYOND ALL HOPE!
THAT is GOOD NEWS! Let it sink in.
We are BLESSED… we ALL have reason to be TRULY, DEEPLY HAPPY. God has come near to us.
You can call me blessed!
So be it. Yes.