Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (children) of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)
The Beatitudes are difficult in the way that the Ten Commandments are difficult. They are beautiful. They are good. And there is no way that any of us can live by them perfectly.
We teach our children to be independent almost from day one. Independence and autonomy are ingrained into Western culture, but in God’s economy, we are blessed by our trust and dependence upon Him.
We can’t even believe in God and trust Jesus on our own. Faith itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
When we come to a place where we have no tangible reason to believe- when we are abandoned, ill or destitute, Jesus sustains us with the reality that He is with us, and that we are already citizens of the kingdom of God.
In Jesus’ resurrection we have hope that death is not the end. We will be reunited with the vast cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, and all tears will be washed away, when Jesus returns to remake heaven and earth.
When we are at the end of our strength and powerless, we are reminded that powers and principalities and governments are temporary, and that corruption in governance will eventually be overturned.
In the new heaven and earth there will be no more evil. We will have incorruptible bodies free from the curse of sin. We will no longer endure injustice, unfairness, and mistreatment. There will be no illness, violence, or suffering.
As Jesus has forgiven us, so we are able to be forgiven and to forgive others. We will no longer have to carry the burden of past injuries and grudges- nor will those things be held against us where others have failed to forgive us.
The veil will be removed from our eyes, so that we can love God with a purity that is not marred by our fear or desire for self-preservation.
In Christ we will have peace, not as the world gives but as only He can give. As the apostle Paul encourages us: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
Even as Christians are persecuted and ridiculed for our faith more and more, we are in good company. No one can take away the promise and the hope that we have in Christ. It’s not always easy or popular to do the right things (and we are by no means perfect at this) but by the power of the Holy Spirit we are blessed to stand and we are given the courage and the confidence to stand.
As we examine the Beatitudes, it is not a “to do” list for us, but a “God does through” us list. We are not the engine behind our transformation, and we cannot make ourselves holy through our own efforts. It is only by the grace of God that He gives us the faith to believe and trust Him. Christ alone redeems and transforms us.
This is good news.