Sunday November 18, 2012 | Greg Boyd
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In the last week of our blessed revolution series, we revisit each of the beatitudes and see how we are blessed because of them. While the world may not count them as blessings, we can begin to see that the Kingdom will be a great blessing in the future.
As we finish the Blessed Revolution series, we are going to revisit each beatitude and show how we are blessed by living them out. While the world may not see these as blessings, there are Kingdom blessings which become apparent when we have faith that Jesus is leading us down the right path.
The first beatitude is blessed are the poor in spirit. When someone is poor in spirit, they depend on God and not on themselves. This is not how the world operates. In a society where we are expected to be independent and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, depending on God seems like weakness. But not depending on God is out of sync with the Kingdom reality. When we depend on God, we experience the Kingdom, and when we strive for independence, it leads to emptiness and isolation.
The second beatitude is blessed are those who mourn. When someone mourns, they are adopting the biblical attitude of being exiles in a foreign land. The world wants us to try and get everything in the here and now. However, God wants us to concentrate on our home, which is not of this world. By mourning today, we will be comforted on that day we return home. But if we try to get it all now, we will have conflict with others who are seeking the same things, injustice when weaker people are trampled, and emptiness because we treasure our possessions instead of what is important.
The third beatitude is blessed are the meek. When someone is meek, they are not prideful, assuming, arrogant, or imposing their will on others. Jesus promises that the meek will inherit the earth, which is the exact opposite of the way the world thinks. The people with power impose their will on others, and they conquer anything in their path. When we try to vie for control and power, we create conflict with other people seeking power and oppress those that aren’t as powerful. But when we adopt meekness, we are guaranteed that God will honor our sacrifice and have us inherit this earth when his Kingdom comes.
The fourth beatitude is blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In this world, we are taught from a young age to hunger and thirst to fill ourselves with our own desires. However, when we try to seek these things, we find that we again encounter injustice, conflict, and ultimately emptiness as we can’t take our possessions with us. In fact, there are limited resources so not everyone is able to fulfill their dream. But when we seek for righteousness, we find that we will be filled with the heavenly qualities that are eternal.
The fifth beatitude is blessed are the merciful. The original sin in the garden was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which allowed humans to judge one another, and it hasn’t been much better since. Judgment is prevalent throughout every society, and it even pervades good intentioned people. When we judge, we isolate ourselves from the other person. Also, we are promised that with the measure we judge, we shall also be judged. But if we show mercy, Jesus promises that mercy will be shown to us. We were created to love, and not to judge, and we embrace our original design when we shed the lens of judgment in our lives.
The sixth beatitude is blessed are the pure in heart. When someone is pure in heart, they have a singular focus and no duplicity. In this world, people are fragmented by the different ways in which they are pulled. We are out of sync with our original purpose, and we seek to fill that void with things that are not God. But, when we have a singular focus on God and don’t ascribe to other ways of living, we find that we begin to see more and more of God working in our lives because we are more tuned to what God is doing.
The seventh beatitude is blessed are the peacemakers. When someone is a peacemaker, they don’t act in anger and contribute to escalating hostility. In this world, when someone offends, it is natural to want to exact revenge. But, as we’ve seen throughout history and even today in Israel, this revenge only provokes more revenge on an escalating scale. People try to defend their “king of the hill” status, and it creates conflict in this world. But those who seek peace and abandon their “king of the hill” status act like children of God, who reflect Jesus’ character of loving others and not seeking power.
The final beatitude is blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. When someone seeks after and exhibits the character of Jesus, they will naturally stand out from the world and will be rejected. But in this world, popularity is extremely important. People want to fit in, not stick out. However, when popularity and conformity become the norm, we find that people are discriminated against. When we embrace the righteousness of Jesus, we will be persecuted by this world. But God promises that we are part of a greater community in the Kingdom of God.
These beatitudes reflect what it looks like to live as Jesus did. These blessings are not, however, blessings that we receive for acting a certain way. It’s not like getting dessert for eating our vegetables. Rather, the blessings come out naturally from living this way. In this world, we will have trouble and persecution because of the way we live. But Jesus reminds us through the beatitudes that this persecution is not the end of the story.