Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 108; 150, Job 11:1-9, 13-20, Revelation 5:1-14, Matthew 5:1-12
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes – blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, etc. He concludes them by saying: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” When this happens do we feel blessed? Do we act blessed? Or do we want to dispose of our persecutors – and therefore our blessings – by legislating them away?
To follow Christ is to set oneself apart from the world in significant ways. When refer to the United States – or any country – as a “Christian nation,” we seriously dilute the meaning of what it means to be a Christian. A Christianity wielding secular power is no longer the persecuted – it becomes the persecutor. Forcing a society to conform to our beliefs is not spreading the gospel. Rather it turns a message of hope and salvation into a system of threats and artificial piety. Jesus asked God to forgive his persecutors, “for they know not what they do.” Saint Stephen, as he was being stoned to death, cried out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” If headlines of the twenty-first century are any indication, Christians seem less interested in forgiving our enemies than in forcing creationism into science textbooks and Merry Christmas into commercial transactions. So many people understandably believe we are about forcing others to be like us, and it’s our own fault.
But the Beatitudes are still waiting for us.
We can be meek without compromising how we live our own lives. We can be peacemakers without being appeasers. We can be merciful to those who don’t seek our mercy. We can accept that being persecuted is part of the being the last, and stop worrying about making Christians the first in everything. But we can only do these things when we are less interested in maintaining power and more interesting in sharing Christ’s love.
The Sermon on the Mount ends with instructions about loving our enemies. We can’t offer them a hand while our boot is on their neck.
Comfort: You aren’t responsible for the behavior of other people.
Challenge: Over the coming week, keep a journal of opportunities you had to share the gospel, and how you chose to do so.
Prayer: Gracious and merciful God, help me to live the Beatitudes. May my life be an example of Christ in the world.Amen.
Discussion: In many place in the world, Christians really are persecuted for their faith. What should be our response?
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