The Beatitudes

7 Oct

In the movie Walk the Line there is a scene towards the end of Cash’s career, in response to a letter, where he wants to play at San Quinton. Cash had hit the highests of highs and the lowest of lows including addiction and jail time during his career. This exchange of lines takes place:

Record Company Executive: Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin’ to cheer ‘em up.
[pause] Johnny Cash: Well, they’re not Christians, then.

I feel like I live in a world where obnoxious, loud and calloused Christians get the spotlight. Partly because they demand it and partly because bad news and stupid people make good news. But there was a moment while at the theatres that all I could do was smile. Because here is a perfect picture of what it means to follow Jesus. Johnny was in touch with his own failures to know that no one is beyond God’s reach and love and therefore we shouldn’t put limits on others either.

We often take the Beattitudes (Latin for Blessed) and turn it into Jesus giving more rules and regulations. We must be poor in spirit. We must be meek. Must be beaten up. This doesn’t make Jesus’ message good news at all, it makes it harder news. Instead, Dallas Willard among others are coming around to saying that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people and making observations. He wasn’t just throwing out another list but was speaking to people that he knew. Jesus seems to be saying just by the fact that they have encountered him and with that the inbreaking of the kingdom of God they will be blessed. Even if they suffer for it.

Matthew 5
The Beatitudes
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11″Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

And so the role of the church is to be a group of people announcing that the kingdom has arrived and no matter who they are or what they have done or where they have been they can enter the blessed life of God. How different would my response be to the person who seems bitter, lazy, angry or a multitude of terms I use to label a person who I deem as unworthy. Do I have the imagination and worldview of Jesus that sees first what the result of the kingdom would be in a person’s life or do I first see what is wrong with them that they need to fix first? Because people around you know. They can sense deep down how you view them and the world around it.

“You are really walking in the good news of the kigndom if you can go with confidence to any of the hopeless people around you and effortlessly convey assurance that they can now enter a blessed life with God.” Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy p122

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