We left off yesterday with the recognition that Jesus called his followers to not just bring salt and light to the world but to be salt and light in the world. Jesus mission wasn’t just changing the disciples goals, behavior and vision; he came to fundamentally change his followers themselves. By simply being these new people Jesus is creating, we, as his followers, can be salt and light in the spheres in which we have influence.
The question before us then, is, “Who should we be?” What does a changed person look like. The answer Jesus gives just before and after calling his followers to be salt and light. Before telling his followers they are salt and light he goes through what are known as the beatitudes. “Beatitude” is the Latin word for blessed. Jesus here is reframing for his followers who is truly blessed of God. This informs them on the qualities they should see as signs of God’s favor on others and themselves. We, as they did back then, tend to view God’s blessing in the forms of health, wealth, long life, good relationships, power, etc. Much of what of what we tend to think of as signs of blessing from God don’t make Jesus’ list.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
A few quick notes on the beatitudes. First, poor in spirit likely refers to those who recognize their spiritual poverty. These folks are often poor physically as well. They have learned to depend fully upon God for their spiritual and physical sustenance and righteousness. Second, mourning here doesn’t solely refer to mourning the death of a loved one. The meaning of this word is more general, “experiencing sadness as the result of some condition or circumstance.” It is likely an individuals sin or the fallen nature of humanity and creation which is in view here. Third, meekness refers to one who is “not overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance.”
These are the people who, according to Jesus, are blessed of God. So being the type of person Jesus calls us to means reframing the lens through which we view God’s blessing. It isn’t luxury, wealth, power, health, etc. Instead it is these characteristics and circumstances which leave a person more open to seeing, experiencing and being the prime players in God’s new kingdom.
Tomorrow we will look at some of what follows.
ff to 4:28 for additional content
I’ve included more of my conversation with Jim Alexander that we started yesterday. Here we are continuing this conversation on what it looks like for him to live out his faith at work.
Today reflect on your thinking and your heart. Have you been so changed by Jesus that you’re concept of the blessed life is so framed the kingdom of God that you resonate with Jesus’ words? Are the words of your witness supported by your actions, and deeper still, are they supported by your thoughts and motives of your heart.