The Message presents Jesus’ famous teaching to his disciples on the Mount in these words:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
John Stott, commentating on the more traditional rendering of this empowering and confronting passage, writes:
“The beatitudes create a comprehensive portrait of a Christian disciple. We see him first alone on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty and mourning over it. This makes him meek or gentle in all his relationships, since honesty compels him to allow others to think of him what before God he confesses himself to be. Yet he is far from acquiescing to his sinfulness, for he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, longing to grow in grace and goodness.
“We see him next with others, out in the human community. His relationship with God does not cause him to withdraw from society, not is he insulated from the world’s pain. On the contrary, he is in the thick of it, showing mercy to those battered by adversity and sin. He is transparently sincere in all his dealings and seeks to play a constructive role as a peacemaker. Yet he is not thanked for his efforts, but rather opposed, slandered, insulted and persecuted on account of the righteousness for which he stands and the Christ with whom he is identified.
“Such is the man or woman who is ‘blessed’, that is, who has the approval of God and finds self-fulfilment as a human being.
“Yet in all this the values and standards of Jesus are in direct conflict with the commonly accepted values and standards of the world. The world judges the rich to be blessed, not the poor, whether in the material or in the spiritual sphere; the happy-go-lucky and carefree, not those who take evil so seriously that they mourn over it; the strong and the brash, not the meek and gentle; the full not the hungry; those who mind their own business, not those who meddle in other men’s matters and occupy their time in do-goodery like ‘showing mercy’ and ‘making peace’; those who attain their ends even if necessary by devious means, not the pure in heart who refuse to compromise their integrity; those who are secure and popular, and live at ease, not those who have to suffer persecution.” (Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, IVP, pp54)
So, are we honest before God about our own spiritual poverty? Is this not the starting point for the remainder of the character of the true disciple. In Luke’s Gospel we read of “the tax collector who stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Lk 18:13) “ He knew he was poor, whatever his worldly status, and therefore he was justified before God by this humble confession of his real plight. When we know our true condition then we take our true place in the world and find true happiness as our heart catches step, in time with the Father-heart of God.
Are you challenged like I was, hearing that the true disciple is compelled to allow others to think – perhaps even to say to his face or behind his back – the very same things that he confesses in the private chapel of his prayers.
Grumpy, selfish, driven, proud, lazy, self-absorbed, uncompassionate, impatient, unkind, argumentative, negative, stubborn, greedy, divisive, hypocritical, careless, lassez-faire….
The list of things we might privately admit to is often lengthy and unique to each of us. What we admit to ourselves is so hard to hear from another, and we readily jump to our own defence, either with a self-justifying excuse, or a sharp come-back designed to warn the other away. We might just take offence and sulk, avoiding any show of potential vulnerability in the offender’s presence for hours, days, or even years.
Why do we try so hard to protect the image we want to project to others – the illusion that we are ‘sorted’. Yet in preserving that façade we so obviously display the reality that we are far from ‘sorted’.
Once in a while you meet someone who is sorted. You admire them, not because they are successful, but because they are comfortable with themselves, and when bumped by others, rightly of wrongly, they display the poise and focus of someone who considers the other person first; listening carefully , a soft response, and if necessary, a frank and humble admission of error or responsibility. It is inspiring and it speaks of something other-worldly, not what we are normally exposed to day after day.
As the Message put it, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
And I would add “so that others can see God in you.”
Determine today to let the Spirit have his way with your heart and mind – to be transformed – so that you might be that inspiration to somebody.
Be that once-in-a-while person for others, and in return you will be blessed.