Even 2000 years after it was first taught by Jesus, the “Sermon on the Mount” is still revolutionary; it is a revolution not against the powers that be, but a revolution of the heart and mind. It represents what John Stott calls a manifesto, albeit a condensed one, for a “Christian counter-culture” that illustrates the way of life in the Kingdom of God. The same Kingdom Jesus was proclaiming in chapter 4 saying: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” v.17.
Probably the most famous and beloved part of the Sermon on the Mount is the beatitudes. It provides the reader comfort and reassurance. However, there is much more to this passage than meets the eye.
Jesus is not talking about some sort of a spiritual comfort and a call to perseverance to those suffering or passing through a hard time. On the contrary, he is portraying the characteristics of those desiring to be His followers: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted.
“Say what?!” I agree, this seems to be very counterintuitive, and you might be wondering, as I was, how can this be? Can these possibly be the characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom of God? What about the comfort, the inheritance, the mercy…? They are the result of God’s work in our life: they are the blessings. In our culture, to be blessed means to be happy. However, the term used in the text is more an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that results from being reconciled with God. And these blessings are given to us by grace rather than the result of any effort we might have made or the state we are in. As adopted members of God’s family, they are the privileges we can start enjoying today while the Holy Spirit works in us to shape our character into Christlikeness.
Finally, these eight characteristics come as a package instead of designating eight separate groups of peoples. They are the characteristics of what every follower of Christ ought to be. It is a new kind of law, one that is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), hearts of flesh rather than of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).
As the Lebanese revolution continues to unfold, we will be undergoing our own inner revolution over the next few months as we unpack each beatitude. Will you join us?
By Wissam Nasrallah
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