Finished Romans. Okay, I read part of it and I listened to the rest via app. Okay, I read some of it, listened to some of it, and Cliff’s noted the rest. My ADD tendencies are getting the best of me.
Truthfully, I’ve started reading some Christian living books and devotionals that are taking me out of my plan to read a book at a time. Not that it’s a bad thing…..it’s just that reading it one book at a time was my original plan. So I found myself reading (or listening to) Romans while also reading other books that had me examining other parts of the Bible. Too much, I tell you. It was just too much. So I did the best I could to finish Romans (because those OCD tendencies with which I also struggle won’t let me just stop mid-book……I’m a hot mess, admittedly) and then decided to just focus on wherever my other readings led me.
So here I am in the Beatitudes — Matthew 5. I would say this is one of the more well-known parts of the Bible as it is part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. I remember being young and hearing these. I wasn’t sure what to think. I related the word “beatitude” with beauty because they looked so similar. I also remember focusing on the word “blessed” in each of these. I thought if Jesus said these people were blessed, that probably meant these were qualities He wanted us to have. Of course, in those early days, my vocabulary and the nuances of words was much more limited. That’s why these confused me.
Poor in spirit? Does that mean sad or in poverty? Does that mean someone who is weak? Blessed are those who mourn? Again, does God want me to be crying? And inheriting the Earth? Does that mean I’ll have lots of possessions? It all seemed so complicated.
There’s much I still don’t understand. However, there are a few things that stick out to me now. One thing I notice is these situations and times are universal. Not everyone is a peacemaker, but nobody can escape life without mourning. And even those who are considered “peacemakers” are not peacemakers all the time in every situation. Therefore, at some times, nobody can live up to the complete expectations of the Beatitudes, yet it also applies to everyone in some way. It’s a bit of a paradox.
Therefore, it could be used to exclude. Or, because it applies to everyone, it could be used to include. It depends on how we choose to interpret it. Not only is this true of the Beatitudes, it’s really true of the entire Gospel. Before Jesus, everyone not Jewish was excluded. Israelites were God’s chosen people while everyone else was…..well……not. But then Jesus came and changed things to open that circle of God’s favor and include everyone.
And really, with the exception of “Blessed are those who mourn”, the beatitudes do not include phrases about people being blessed for doing anything. It’s full of adjectives. In most cases, people are blessed because of who they are…..meek, pure, hungry, etc…… It’s as if Jesus is saying the blessings we receive are out of our control. We just have to accept them and receive them. Bingo. That’s true of the entire Gospel again.
However, how did we go from God’s blessings applying to everyone to proclaiming who is and is not blessed? By labels. Despite God sending Jesus for everyone, we still long to hold onto the idea of exclusiveness. God is blessing those who work hard, are straight, live in America, obey Him, go to church, read the King James version of the Bible, look like us, believe like us. Or worse yet, we start declaring who God is NOT blessing….those who break the law, addicts, prostitutes, gay or transsexual, rock stars, sexual predators, those who are “using” the system, illegal aliens, Muslims, gang members, unwed mothers. Oh, the list could go on and on. I’m so guilty of this, I’m ashamed. Look at the list of those we believe God is NOT blessing — and I challenge you to be honest and make your own list of those who you have or do believe God is NOT blessing. Usually, that list (unlike the Beatitudes) is derived from the doing and not the being. We allow ourselves to think that our actions or others’ actions can actually separate us or them from the love and abundance of God.
It’s just not true, friends.
Please understand, I’m not suggesting that everything is acceptable to God. But I am saying God’s love, His peace, His joy, His strength is available to all. We are the ones who choose to accept or deny it. But with that in mind, our love, our peace, our patience should also be extended to all as well.