THURSDAY MARCH 5 gathering at 110 St. John’s TW7 6PG
The first beatitude explained has a few questions for us to consider before we go forward:
- Do we want to align with God even if it means we get out of synch with those who are not aligned with God. Is it worth it?
- If it really is possible to be of one nature (character), not mixed but consistent. Do we want that?
- If we do have consistency of character are we willing to let that be useful to others, not just ourselves?
- Are we willing to trust Jesus and work out his plan for living such that we really do experience God in charge here and now (the Kingdom of Heaven)?
Matthew 5:10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This is the last of 8 beatitudes. It is now the first to be explained by Jesus. He will continue this pattern explaining each cryptic ‘blessed’ in order from last to first.
Blessed = in a good way, well off
Righteous = the way it/one should be
Kingdom of Heaven = God in charge
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The blessedness is not because of suffering persecution, it is because of being identified with Jesus. The deal is that humanity is supposed to live in relationship with God and to carry out God’s wisdom. God’s will is more important than ours the way a King’s will is more important than a subject in the kingdom. For a healthy subject in a healthy kingdom, there is no conflict here. The subject trusts the king and realizes that the king’s will is the best chance for good.
But for those who have rebelled against the king, a royalist is a target. Prophets in the past have been mistreated and killed because they told the truth without spin and rationalizing. Jesus gets persecuted to death for speaking the truth about the Kingdom of God. When Jesus says to “rejoice and be glad” the key is “on my account”. The idea is that if you are treating like him because of him, it must mean that you really do trust him and really are loyal to him. It shows that you are meaningfully part of the Kingdom of heaven.
So, this should provide answer our original question #1
Do we want to align with God even if it means we get out of synch with those who are not aligned with God. Is it worth it?
Being aligned with God through Jesus is good because it is right and because God will make sure that it works out in the end.
Next is the question of character. #2: Is it really possible to be of one nature (character), not mixed but consistent? Do we want that?
Salt is used as the example.
Mat 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
Pure salt is good. Salt that had things dipped into it and became mixed is not good. Godly character is good unless it is mixed up with ungodly character. The blessed life is not about just barely being ‘good enough’ or ‘religious enough. The blessed life is being in relationship with God in such a way that we actually invest clearly and consistently in being loyal to who he is and what he says. It is good to have unmixed, godly character.
An old strategy to have godly character is to avoid ungodly temptations. Go hide. But that doesn’t work. Jesus illustrates with light from oil lamps:
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
This answers our question #3: If we do have consistency of character are we willing to let that be useful to others, not just ourselves?
Even if we do have consistent, unmixed, godly character… it is useless if it is hidden away. The point of having God’s character is to fulfill our purposes in this world, which involve being useful. Godliness in a cave, literally or figuratively as in hiding in a religious ghetto, is pointless. God’s restoration is not about making us useful. That requires our character to be transformed and then deployed.
Finally we get to the answer to question #4: Are we willing to trust Jesus and work out his plan for living such that we really do experience God in charge here and now (the Kingdom of Heaven)?
Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The experience of living loyally before God, in the Kingdom of Heaven, is actually about hearing, obeying and promoting what God promotes. To say God is theoretically right is not helpful. To say Gold is a safe investment in economic crisis might be insightful, but it isn’t much good if you just say it but don’t invest in it. The investment God calls us to is himself. When we call upon him, renouncing our personal rebellion against him, we can be forgiven and brought into the family of God. The cross is Jesus dying the death of a traitor on behalf of our sedition. The resurrection shows that the Kingdom of life surpasses death. Loyalty to Christ as King is saying he is right and actually meaning it. How do we know we have meant it? We will obey with confidence that his will, his wisdom, his kingdom, is right and good.
What does that look like? The rest of Matthew chapter 5 will show how the change can meaningful take place.