The heroes of our time rarely accomplished the great things they are known for easily. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa; these were people who faced abounding adversity, yet remained resolute. Those who confess Christ and seek to demonstrate to the world the life he calls us to will not find convenience and coziness in this world.
The Beatitudes are one of the best-known portions of Scripture (Matthew 5:1-12). They predicate the characteristics of the blessed person. However, there is a rhetorical irony contained within them. The type of people mentioned are not those you might expect to be blessed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the humble… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… Blessed are the merciful… Blessed are the pure in heart… Blessed are the peacemakers… Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness… Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of [Christ].” Jesus takes what is so often valued in the world and turns it upside down. And he promises these upside-down people the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let’s look at just one of these beatitudes. “Blessed are the merciful.” After apartheid ended in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed. It provided an opportunity for those who committed gross human right violations during the apartheid era to give testimony and request amnesty. There is a story of a frail black South African woman who sat-in on one of these trials. Former police officer Mr. van de Broek confessed that he with other officers shot the woman’s fourteen-year-old son dead at point-blank range. Then, eight years later, they seizing her husband and burned him at the stake. The commission asked the woman what she wanted for Mr. van de Broek. She said she wanted three things: 1. She wanted him to take her to the place they burned her husband, so that she could gather the ashes and give him a proper burial. 2. She said that Mr. van de Broek took her whole family and she still had lots of love to give. Twice a month she wanted him to join her in the ghetto, so that she could be a mother to him. 3. She wanted him to know that God had forgiven him, and that she forgave him too.
The blessed life is rarely the easy life. Which predications in the beatitudes do you resonate with? Which ones challenge you?