Be­ing blessed doesn’t mean a care-free life

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - RON GRIFFEN The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pas­tor of First United Methodist Church in El Cen­tro.

The Beat­i­tudes is one of the bet­ter known pas­sages from the New Tes­ta­ment. They are the be­gin­ning, or pre­lude, to what we call the “Sermon on the Mount.” They are in the Gospel of Matthew.

Je­sus’ pri­mary mis­sion was to an­nounce the ar­rival of the King­dom of God, and that Je­sus was the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of what it meant to live life in God’s King­dom. The Sermon on the Mount out­lines what we can do to live the King­dom life. The Beat­i­tudes are the pre­lude, or sum­mary of what it means to rec­og­nize some­one liv­ing in God’s King­dom.

The nine Beat­i­tudes, or “bless­ings,” are bro­ken into three sec­tions. Con­trary to the no­tion that they rep­re­sent char­ac­ter­is­tics of dif­fer­ent peo­ple on their faith jour­ney, they de­scribe the process by which we be­come fol­low­ers of Christ. The first three are:

• “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the King­dom of Heaven.”

• “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be com­forted.”

• “Blessed are the meek for they shall in­herit the earth.”

When we re­al­ize we have put our faith into many dif­fer­ent places, or things such as money, power, pres­tige and so forth, and we re­al­ize that we are still left want­ing for some­thing more, we come face to face with our poverty of Spirit. Rec­og­niz­ing our poverty of Spirit leads us to mourn, to mourn what we have lost, mourn what we have be­come, mourn what we have missed in life.

But we find com­fort in our mourn­ing, which leads to hu­mil­ity, or meek­ness. Now meek­ness is not be­ing a doormat! It is rec­og­niz­ing that with­out God we can do noth­ing, and that plac­ing our trust in other things to find mean­ing is ul­ti­mately lack­ing.

The next three are:

• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for right­eous­ness sake for they will be sat­is­fied.”

• “Blessed are the mer­ci­ful for mercy shall be theirs.”

• “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”

In re­sponse to this new aware­ness, we be­gin to hunger and thirst for right­eous­ness. In Scrip­ture the words right­eous­ness and jus­tice mean the same thing: God’s de­sire for heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, for­give­ness and restora­tion of whole­ness for the hu­man com­mu­nity.

And that leads to the prac­tice of mercy. To be mer­ci­ful is to em­pha­size with and ad­vo­cate for the well-be­ing of all those who are in need, phys­i­cally and spir­i­tu­ally. Acts of mercy lead to pu­rity of heart. To be pure in heart is to place your life com­pletely into God’s hands. It is the af­fir­ma­tion of the one God. There is no room for other gods in our lives.

The last three are:

• “Blessed are the peace­mak­ers for they shall be called chil­dren of God.”

• “Blessed are those who are per­se­cuted for theirs is the King­dom of Heaven.”

• “Blessed are you when peo­ple re­vile you on my ac­count.”

We are called to be peace­mak­ers. It isn’t enough that we have peace. The peace of Christ is some­thing to be shared. But this takes courage be­cause there will al­ways be push­back from the pow­ers of vi­o­lence and hate. We will face per­se­cu­tion of some kind. Peo­ple will re­vile us, and op­press us be­cause of our faith in Je­sus. Af­ter all, isn’t that what hap­pened to Je­sus? Should we ex­pect any less?

In our day and age we won’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, although some of our broth­ers and sis­ters truly do. Ours is more of­ten the loss of friend­ships, pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tion, marginal­iza­tion, dis­re­spect.

And when that hap­pens what does Je­sus say to do? Re­joice! He says to re­joice! Be­cause we have been wel­comed into the King­dom of Heaven. Here and now. Not later on when we die. Here and now. God is here and now.

And we are blessed.

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