We’ve all said it. Or, at least heard it. “We’ve been so blessed.” or “It is such a blessing that we are able to do XYZ.”
We say such phrases to express how fortunate we’ve been. And while we should be thankful for what he has given to us, sometimes I think our notion of being blessed (or not) becomes a sense of identity or pride falsely connected to our own good performance for God. In studying again the Sermon on the Mount (this time in Jen Wilkin’s Bible study) when Jesus delivers what is known as the Beatitudes, who Jesus calls blessed makes me think it’s time we reassess our view.
What he says is not at all what we long for, and certainly not what we would naturally respond to as a blessing. No, we don’t want to be poor – in spirit (or materially) – and probably see both more as an undeserving curse. But to Jesus: Blessed are those who are spiritually depeleted (poor in spirit), worn out and with nothing else to give. I don’t know about you, but this comforts me because I often feel empty in and of myself, but it is here he meets me and enters in.
Just as we don’t want to be poor, or poured out, we don’t want to mourn or be sad ever. This world is all about finding our happy; we think this is where it’s at. I mean isn’t that what we say we want most for us and for our kids and will do almost anything in our pursuit? Not that happiness isn’t a blessing, it’s by God’s grace any of us ever experience it. But in this list, Jesus doesn’t include it. He knows this world is full of trials and suffering so if that’s our highest goal we will live too short-sighted and constantly be disappointed. Instead Jesus says, Blessed are those who long for eternity with me.
Next, we think weak when we hear meek. But Jesus is the definition of meek. According to Webster’s Dictionary, meek is “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.” Think judged, oppressed, rejected, condemned, beaten, and crucified. The One who created the world and subjected himself to it says: Blessed are you who are self-forgetting and don’t live entitled. You are the ones who will inherit the world, not the movers & shakers and rich & famous who are all about themselves.
So when we hunger and thirst for stuff, for vacations, for a relationship, for peace and happiness, for relief, for fame, for attention, for our own desires to be met – we forget in those things is not life. But to hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are you because you know your need for Jesus’ work and worth more than anything. Your identity secure in his righteousness is a blessing!
Showing compassion (mercy), being pure in heart and a peacemaker – these are worthwhile character qualities we may aspire toward, but doesn’t it seem more accurate to deem the recipient of mercy and good deeds as the blessed one? It did to me, but Jesus says, You who show compassion on the undeserving offender, oppose falsehood as truth-seekers, and work to reconcile adversaries, blessed are you. And blessed are those who are persecuted, bullied or attacked (not just for anything) but for advocating the truth of the gospel.
As I wrote in my last post, theology matters every day. Here again it can be said the lenses we look through (gospel-centered or other worldview) will determine how we interpret life and consider our lot. When we see as the world sees our category for blessing will look totally different than when we look at life through the lenses of Christ.
With gospel glasses on we can endure the disappointment, discouragement, trials and suffering without losing hope or growing bitter toward God for not “blessing us.” We can say with confidence: To live is Christ, to die is gain. We can sing: It is well with my soul. In Jesus, we have God’s favor, his look of love, his smile, his blessing – and that is my hope to hang on to. To know I am not forgotten or forsaken when I feel furthest from blessed.
Don’t you think this may be why Jesus shakes up our notion of “blessed?” In his economy, the last will be first. And those who are the least will inherit everything that is his! Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
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