The Beatitudes for Today

Matthew 5:3–12
“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 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 5:3–12

My pastor, Ray Ortlund, wrote a piece on the Beatitudes once that I will in no way attempt to rehash or reboot. It was way too good to even attempt that. But in many ways, I’d like to address something I think many Christians don’t often observe in the Beatitudes: how you get there from here.

We often look at the Beatitudes as a kind of comfort to us, when we just so happen to be staring down the barrel of one of those conditions.

“Jim, I’m sorry for your loss, but on the bright side you will be comforted.”

That rings hollow, doesn’t it? The idea that these verses are there for when life goes wrong is just an utterly Americanized way of reading them. The audience listening wouldn’t have said, “In the rare event that I suffer something like what this Jesus guy is talking about, I will remember that He said this and it will be okay.”

No. Emphatically not. Jesus was making a declarative statement about the nature of reality. Do you see it?

Blessed are the poor in spirit isn’t, “If you get depressed, you get the kingdom.” That doesn’t jive with the rest of Scripture at all. Instead, there is a sense in my mind of doors placed in a hall, to gently steal an idea from C.S. Lewis.

In this hall, in this passageway, there are all these doors lining the walls. All of the doors lead to a greater experience of who Jesus is; a greater place of intimacy, in fact. Confused? Work it backward.

If I want to be a son of God? A coheir? If I really want that? My life should bend towards peacemaking. I should be marked by my efforts at bringing the heavenly shalom to this broken world.

If I want the comfort only God can give? I must, in fact, suffer. You can’t experience the comforts of God in parallel with the comforts of this world.

But just to clarify, don’t hear me say that this is an attempt to buy these items through some kind of exchange. No, in fact, the very nature of what Jesus says is an offer - it is something only God Himself can give.

I can’t entice or coerce God into giving me the kingdom of heaven. That’s His to give, His to choose. But if I want that? Well then I understand what door that lies behind and it will mean persecution. So with that concept in mind, this becomes a diagnostic in revealing my own heart.

If I want the kingdom of heaven, I must examine whether I am prepared for poverty; both spiritual and literal. Am I prepared to lose everything to gain Him?

If I want the comfort only God can give me, I must come to grips with the idea that something that demands as much of my affection as God does, will be taken from me.

If I want to change the whole world, I have to start losing. Not just a little bit, either. I need to lose everything. I need to let “my way” die. (Or more specifically, I must throw “my way” on the altar).

If I want to soothe that deep, empty ache in my heart, am I ready to chase down the right things, even when it costs me dearly? Or am I just okay with filling that hole with temporal, fleeting things?

If I am truly a desperate enough sinner, in need of outlandish and scandalous grace, then I must anticipate situations where the undeserved forgiveness of God has to flow from me to someone who has hurt me.

If my heart wants to lay eyes on the God of the universe, am I willing to lay aside the deepest, most loved sins in my heart?

If I want to be able to say, with complete and total sincerity, that I am one of God’s sons, am I willing to put my very life on the line to extend His peace into the worst situations of my own life and the lives of others?

If the kingdom of God - thy kingdom come - is really at the core of my being, am I willing to be persecuted by the world?

If I believe there is an actual, eternal reward waiting for me in the next life, the only life that matters, am I willing to suffer the hatred of others?

The Beatitudes show us a kind of reality that is truly, deeply, accessible. This isn’t theoretical. This is Jesus pulling back the curtain and showing us the open door to His glory. It’s a terrible, beautiful picture of life. It’s a life that defeats and dethrones my designer life with real joy, with real love, with the real Jesus.