This morning, I reread Matthew 5, the section famously called “The Beatitudes.”
Once again, I’m going to point out my old Southern Baptist upbringing — to then explore another reason why I believe it falls so far short of trying to explain what it is the Bible actually says.
Baptists are big on legalism and status. I know that’s a big generalization to make, but it has held true for me through most of my life, so I’m sticking with it. They remind me a lot of the Pharisees Christ warned so much about – so hopped up on their perceived holiness that they missed the point altogether. Sure, they may have followed most of the rules most of the time. But they missed the heart of the message, and therefore became nothing more than another group of bossy judgmental people claiming to know more about God than anyone else.
Yeah, I’m not a Baptist anymore.
Anyway, whenever this passage would come up, people would spout out on how wonderful it is to be beaten down, hopeless, enslaved, and hopefully even martyered. See, it’s proof that you’re living a Christlike life! Rather than using conflict as a path to learning more about others or about one’s self, or as a way to become aware of wrongs that need to be corrected, they congratulate themselves on strife and dig deeper into the trenches.
Well, maybe conflict and hardship is just proof that you’re a total jerk. Ever think about that?
I don’t think that the Beatitudes are a list of attributes we’re supposed to strive towards. (That would probably be found in, say, the Ten Commandments.) I think that the Beatitudes are reassurances that your life will not always be backbreaking. You will find rest and solace and peace, eventually. Maybe not even in this world (this world doesn’t offer anything of the kind), but eventually, as you continue in your life, in your heart, and in your faith, you will find the comfort you seek.
Christ doesn’t desire us to be “poor in spirit.” (See my post from a few days ago: Childlike.) He wants joy and exuberance for everyone. But sometimes that just doesn’t happen, and it can continue to not happen for a very long time. The Beatitudes acknowledge this, and encourage us to keep hoping for better days to come.