Summary: The Beatitudes give us a guide for how the Christian should respond to the terrible terrorist attacks on our country.
Incomprehensible. Unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unbelievably evil.
However we describe it, the coordinated terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed perhaps thousands of blameless and unsuspecting people continue to shock our senses.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath has made this an extremely unsettling and difficult week for all of us.
How do Christians respond?
As we have discussed so often in our meetings over the past year, our Savior urges us to be like Him in all we think and do. Perhaps we can find answers about how we respond to unbelievable tragedy in some of the beatitudes He taught to His followers on the mountainside by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 5:3-9).
5:3--Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Poor in spirit denotes meekness of spirit, dependence on God, satisfaction in Him, even when we don’t fathom events occurring around us. To be blessed means to be content or happy. Most of us have felt so much out of control--we have felt anything but happy and content--as we watched hundreds perish on television.
In this time of tragedy, we must reaffirm our dependence on Him, just as we will one day know from actual experience our total dependence on Him when we are with Him in heaven.
As we question and mourn and feel the anger, we must remember our very existence is in Him and He is our spiritual strength.
5:4--Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
We are in mourning right now . . . mourning for those who died terrible, painful deaths . . . mourning for those they left behind, some of whom do not yet know the fate of their loved ones . . . mourning for our nation so victimized by the terror . . . and mourning for all people of the world who do not know the Spirit of Christ and in whose hearts such hatred and evil dwells.
Our comfort is in our Savior, and our hearts can know His love and His peace. God comforts us in our mourning.
5:5--Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
Once again, our Savior speaks of dependence, meekness being best defined as humility or a dependent disposition before God . . . having the means and ability to do something, but keeping it under control and depending on God.
More than once in the past 36 hours, I have thought how satisfying it would be to personally deliver the just punishment to those who are responsible for yesterday’s tragic events. But that is not dependence, it’s vengeance, and vengeance is reserved for God alone.
5:6--Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled
In our time of questioning and mourning, let us remember no matter the sins of others, our fulfillment comes from seeking righteousness in all that we think and do.
5:7--Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy
Another hard one during these first hours and days of anger.
Our hearts go out to those who have suffered loss, and many of us have given blood or contributed in other ways already. But the test of the mercy we show is not whether we can show mercy just to those who we feel deserve our help. Even the most callous and evil human being can find a capacity for mercy toward those who seem most deserving of mercy. But the test of mercy is how we think about and react when facing those who sin against us.
Mercy includes a forgiving spirit toward the lost sinner. It is perhaps the most difficult attribute of God for us to emulate right now. Even Christ while He was suffering on the cross prayed for the Father to forgive those who were at that very moment engaged in the act of killing Him.
I must admit I don’t understand yet how to apply this attribute as the strong emotions continue to surface while the mangled bodies are still being recovered. It is a big comfort to recognize vengeance is not mine, but God’s. It is with gratitude also we can know the ultimate triumph of good under the watchful eye of our God, Who balances His grace and mercy with His perfect sense of justice. And it is good to remember we live in a strong society with a commitment to justice and the will to right the wrongs and punish evildoers as God intends for human governments (Romans 13:1-4).
5:8--Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
To be pure in heart is to be poor in spirit, meek, to seek righteousness, to show mercy . . . in other words, to be like Christ. The text of this verse gives a vivid word-picture: the word pure was also used to describe the wheat kernels after they are separated from the chaff.