Have you read The Beatitudes lately?
I recently revisited the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5 and was struck by how contradictory Jesus’ words are to the voices dominating the present-day North American church. Divisive political rhetoric, an emphasis on a Prosperity gospel and fearful discourse are currently drowning out all other points of view.
Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are directly opposed to most of what the modern-day evangelical church has come to represent. It made me wonder. What would The Beatitudes look like if we wrote them today?
Perhaps they would look like this.
Cursed are the poor in spirit, for they lack faith.
Cursed are those who mourn, for they aren’t thinking positive thoughts.
Cursed are the meek, for they will always be failures.
Cursed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be called idealists.
Cursed are the merciful for they are suckers.
Cursed are the pure in heart, for they are naive.
Cursed are the peacemakers, for they will be conquered.
Cursed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for they were not well-armed.
Cursed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Complain and feel sorry for yourself, for you need to maintain your standard of living and nobody has the right to call you names.
Contrast the above with the following. Here’s the setting. Jesus has just returned from his time of testing in the desert. He is traveling around Galilee when he encounters Peter and Andrew, then James and John. He invites them to become religious radicals, taking up arms to defend themselves and overturn the Roman empire.
He invited them to be ‘fishers of men’. He hung out with the sick, the diseased and the mentally ill and brought healing. People were drawn to him and large crowds followed him throughout the area.
That’s when he spoke the following words.
“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 will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:3-12 NIV
When you read the true, tender words of Jesus, they ring clear, like a melody, they wash over you in a wave, like a benediction. They also sound radical and revolutionary in a terrifying and beautiful way.
So, how did we get to the point where…
- we mistake our comfort for our rightful inheritance.
- we hoard our abundance in disdain of the poor.
- we let fear dominate our lives and influence our decisions.
Are you tired of the clanging and the noise? Does the constant stream of anger and division wreak havoc on your spirit? I know it does mine.
I invite you to join me – let’s spend more time meditating on the words of Jesus instead of the rants of a political pundit, an angry talking head or a religious spokesman and let the truth of God’s Word bring clarity to our minds and peace to our souls.