Summary: How the Beatitudes are a guide to Christian living in troubled times.
BLESSED IN UNEXPECTED WAYS:
The Beatitudes as a Guide For Troubled Times
The Beatitudes are found in their fullest form at the beginning of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in Matthew 5:3-11.
A Beatitude is “an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that comes with being right with God. Happiness may indeed be a part of it; but it is a happiness that transcends what happens in the world around us, a happiness that comes to the soul from being favored by God.” - Dr. Allen Ross
“The sermon begins with the beatitudes. These qualities give a picture of the character of the true people of God, those who are a part of his kingdom and have the full blessings of the kingdom to look forward to. Taken together they give the picture of the perfect disciple of Christ who is the heir of the promises.” - Dr. Allen Ross
Susan Mansfield makes an interesting observation when she writes, “If the Beatitudes can speak to us in any age, they can speak to us now in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Henri Nouwen, author of Living the Beatitudes, writes that ‘every one of the eight Beatitudes that Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount are for all people and for all times,’ but that some will strike us more than others depending on our circumstances. We should read the beatitudes and consider which ones most apply to our own lives and how. If the beatitudes can speak to us in all circumstances, then that includes now.
The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT
People who are “poor in spirit” are those who are humble before God. They have a penitent spirit and recognize that without God's help they will remain helpless and hopeless sinners. There is no arrogance in them, no self-righteousness, no self-sufficiency.
We may feel poor in spirit during this virus season. “Every news bulletin seems to bring fresh fears, for ourselves, for our loved ones, our country, our world.” Being poor in spirit during a pandemic means coming to God without pride or arrogance to seek His help and mercy. The kingdom of heaven is given to those who humbly seek God in all situations of life.
In his book on the Spiritual Exercises, The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy, Monty Williams writes that the first Beatitude is a key to unlocking the others. “Poverty of spirit is the radical awareness of our nothingness and of our dependence on Divine Providence for health, approval, image, identity, friendship, even life itself.” COVID-19 is giving us a taste of that.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN
No doubt we are in a time of mourning - we have suffered losses. Primarily, just the loss of our normal lives. To be able to get up and go to work, take the kids to school, meet friends and visit family. The loss of being able to take a walk down the street without having to worry about social distancing. “We are mourning for the holiday we’ve had to cancel, the concert we had been looking forward to, the graduation which is now postponed, the Easter celebrations which were muted.” Of course there are people who are mourning losses. Over 2,000 people have died because of this COVID-19 pandemic. Those are 2,000 grieving families and friends.
God promises that we will be comforted. We hang on in faith, knowing that God is a great provider and promise keeper. This tells us that our mourning won’t last forever. It also recognizes that our mourning is a reality, though, and God acknowledges our pain.
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK
In the Bible the meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness and self-control; they are free from malice and a condescending spirit. We should cultivate the spirit of meekness because it helps us align with the will of God, rather than seeking our own path. When we are under pressure we can speak and act in ways that are not our best selves. It is important for us to keep in mind that a spirit of gentleness and self-control is especially needed when there are so many things happening now that can make us irritable, fearful, or self-seeking.