The first time I read this understanding of the beatitudes was in Dallas Willard’s book, Divine Conspiracy (highly recommended). After reading him, and others who commented on this approach, these are my gleanings.
As your read this, imagine sitting on a hillside, hoping this sermon will be different. As you listen you realize, this is not an invitation for the righteous and spiritually-put-together. These are promises for those who are searching and longing, those who know that this world should be different, but have no power on their own to make it that way.
Also, in each of these invitations is the promise of Kingdom resolution. It’s not that things will be fixed like some of my patch jobs. No spiritual wire and duct tape used here. Instead there is a vision of complete healing and wholeness. Let’s look at these things we call the beatitudes from Matthew 5.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This invitation is to those who understand the poverty of their own souls without God and his kingdom. I am convinced there are people who look healthy, well-put together, but on the inside are empty. When we know our emptiness, we are ready for filling.
They are positioned well, for the kingdom is for such as these. In fact, this Kingdom is theirs. They are the proprietors.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Are you a mourner? A mourner grieves paradise lost. They long for never having to say good-bye again. The brokenness and separation of the world from the Creator has created a life that is emptied of love again and again.
The mourners receive what only God can give with his presence. His comfort! He sits, listens, loves and restores.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The number of times I’ve been told that meekness is not weakness can’t be counted. And yet it sounds weak. I can’t shake it. That’s because meekness is weak according to the world’s understanding of power. Most of us have little influence. Most of us live in the ordinary. Big dreams and the power to achieve them belong to the few. But those few who seem to control the world and the future don’t. God’s economy is different.
The eternal earth belongs to the others; the others who know their powerlessness in the face of a Sovereign God. These are those who serve in the shadows. These are the quiet, unnoticed and powerless.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Hunger and thirst are two human drives that we can’t deny. When they aren’t fulfilled we are weak and quickly become sick. It is a life with an ache that never goes away. Hungering for righteousness is to ache over all that is wrong with the world. This one longs for God to make all things right again.
If you’re satisfied with the world because you’ve figured out how to make it work, this promise isn’t for you. But if you know it’s broken and you ache for a fix, the Kingdom is your hope of a filled belly and quenched thirst.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
In the kingdom, mercy and grace are the prevailing sentiments. This isn’t a command to be merciful so we will receive mercy. But it’s a promise that those who love mercy have good news awaiting. They will find great mercy. Who are the merciful? The merciful aren’t looking to win. They aren’t hoping to be proved right. They aren’t looking to make others pay for their failures. Instead they long for mercy for themselves and others. They love the gift of forgiveness and they generously give it to all.
Can you imagine the frustration of the merciless finding themselves in God’s Kingdom? They would be completely miserable being surrounded by all that mercy. The kingdom is for those who give, long for and depend on mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Who is pure in heart? I don’t think Jesus is addressing the sinless people of the crowd, because there were none. So what is someone who is pure in heart? Another way to describe it could be how Jesus used the child as an example of one who would enter the Kingdom of God. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16). Or, remember when he referred to Nathanael, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47). The pure in heart have simple, unmixed motives. They just long to see God and his glory. They long for him to rule on the throne. They don’t fight for control, but long for his goodness, his beauty, his wisdom and his love to reign.
What is for them in the Kingdom? They will see God in his glory. Their heart’s desire will be met in full.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
This invitation is for those who work hard to bring peace. They step into conflict and offer a path to reconciliation. The kingdom is for those who love peace and who sacrifice to make it a real hope. There are those who love conflict. They love to live as adversaries. They share no similarities with God or His Kingdom.
The reminder for the peacemaker is that they share the nature of God their father. They will carry the family crest with them into a Kingdom that is being prepared for them.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This last statement is a reminder and a reassurance that we live in an ugly world. Those who love the things of God, as expressed above, find themselves in opposition to the power of the world. That opposition is expressed in persecution. Persecution is experienced in everything to misjudged motives to death on a cross. To be at odds with worldly power puts us in good stead with the Kingdom of God. In fact, belonging to the Kingdom is not a future promise it is a present reality.
Twice Jesus said “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom is now. And it is ours now. It is seen in the peacemakers, the pure in heart, the merciful, the meek, the mournful and the poor in spirit.
I am encouraged that this isn’t a list of what I must become to measure up to the blessings of the kingdom. These aren’t spiritual achievements. They are spiritual conditions that look weak and powerless, but instead are aligned with godly power. Don’t make this a list of to-do’s. Don’t try to become this. Instead hear an invitation of hope when you find yourself in this blessed condition. Are you longing, powerless, dependent, forgiving, simple-hearted? This kingdom life is for you. Follow Jesus and enter in.
Id’ really like to hear your take on this approach to the Beatitudes. In the past have you seen these as something you must try and achieve? How have you done at trying to achieve these?
If there is a way I can encourage you, or serve your ministry, my email is on my “About Jim Renke” page. Or you can direct message me on twitter @jimrenke, or instagram at jimrenke. I’d love to hear from you. You can also stay connected on my facebook page.
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