It is sometimes a puzzle to understand God's mind. His thinking is so far above ours. The secret is: there is no secret. People pay gurus millions to learn what is often half-baked wisdom and ignore the wonderful truth found in the beatitudes which is free to all (Matthew 5:1-12).
Last week we looked at the contrast between spiritually self-satisfied people who are shallow and empty, and those who recognize their spiritual poverty are pleasant to be around. We also looked at those who mourn for society’s ills are more ready to change than those who ignore them, humble people who have more friends than the arrogant, and that desiring to do right is better than wanting to do wrong. These are puzzles and secrets of heavenly thinking.
Let us understand the God's thinking.
This week we will look at four more pieces to the puzzle and the secret behind the beatitudes.
Why did Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12 promote mercy? Examples of Jesus’ mercy in the New Testament were healing the sick and befriending sinners. Our world is filled with cruelty, intolerance, indifference, tyranny, disdain, accusation and punishment. All of these things exhibit a lack of mercy. In a merciless world few people care about the sick or sinners, unless the system can make money off them with high medical costs or isolate the worst sinners in prisons without hope of reform. Yet in the midst of a merciless world are a few who show compassion without a dollar sign attached. There are some tenderhearted souls who work with sinners to guide them towards a better life. Jesus promised that if we show mercy towards the poor and the guilty, we too will be shown mercy. Surely we all need it.
The secret of mercy
We want justice. We criticize politicians, police, businesses, employees, parents, teachers, neighbors and children. When it comes to criticism of us, we again criticize others for their lack of mercy. Why is this, when we show so little? Why do we want justice served on others, but cry for mercy for ourselves? Why do we show so little mercy? A merciless atmosphere makes us walk on egg-shells. Mercy creates an atmosphere of trust. Lack of mercy creates a police-state-like atmosphere of secrecy and distrust. Mercy creates a warm, affirming atmosphere. Without mercy, we tend to cover up problems and leave them unresolved. In an atmosphere of mercy, we are not afraid to admit mistakes and they can be worked on. As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:1-12 be merciful and when we need it, it will be there for us.
The puzzle of pure-heartedness
Are not the pure in heart that Jesus blessed naive and foolish? How can a pure hearted person survive in the real world? The Greek for pure in Matthew 5:1-12 is used elsewhere to mean clean after having taken a bath (John 13:10). The Pharisees thought that they were righteous if they were clean on the outside. Jesus corrected them by saying that being clean or pure in the eyes of God begins on the inside. It has nothing to do with naivety and yet everything to do with innocence. There is a world of difference. The pure in heart can be wise as serpents and yet remain harmless as doves. Their intent is for good and without pretense. They carry no malice or dishonesty in their hearts. How can the real world survive without such blessed people!
The secret of pure-heartedness
What would it be like to have a clean heart, free from evil motives? What are the results of a contaminated heart with wrong intentions? Why is the one better than the other? The Pharisees thought they were clean, but their hearts were not pure. With right motives, we want to obey when only God is looking. How do we get a pure heart? It only comes from God (Ezekiel 36:25-27). It comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 5:1-12Jesus suggested that those who have a pure heart will see God. They look beyond mere human conditions to see God. Those with pure motives look for God in everything and thus see him. Old Testament laws regarding being ritually clean or unclean point to this purity of heart. Are our hearts contaminated or pure?
The puzzle of making peace
Some people love to fight. They think it’s exciting. Is not making peace a foolish waste of time and money? It has not worked in the Middle East where agitators on all sides ceaselessly instigate mayhem. Yet in Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus calls the peacemakers blessed. Why? On our planet there is no peace, but imagine a world where nobody tried to referee between sides. It would descend into complete anarchy. Humanity exists in a constant state of hostility. Animosity between people and God, between nations, between governments and their people, within churches and families are an ongoing fact of life. Peacemakers bring a measure of calm to a potentially escalating situation often at great personal sacrifice. While some men love a good fight and look to create strife, only peacemakers are blessed to be called the children of God.
The secret of making peace
In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus said blessed are the peace-MAKERS. He did not say blessed are the peace attempts, or peace-wish-makers, or peace-hopefuls. Making peace requires sacrifice, compromise. For two warring factions to make peace, each must be willing to give up something. Negotiations must be a win-win for both sides. That is the hard part. Reconciliation can take a long time, and it is easy to be tempted to give up. If peacemakers are blessed, are peace-breakers cursed? Surely those who stir up trouble, make war and sow discord are loathsome and contemptible people. Nobody likes a troublemaker. History blackens their name and they are despised by all. Pride may prevent us making peace, but necessity demands it. Living in freedom must also include freedom from strife and warfare. Peace does not just happen. It has to be made.
The puzzle of being abused for doing right
Did not Jesus say that if they persecute you in one town, flee to the next (Matthew 20:23)? Persecuted means to pursue or chase away. How is that blessed? Why did Jesus call the persecuted blessed in Matthew 5:1-12? How can the harassed be blessed? Some estimate that 60% of Christians today live in countries with heavy restrictions on religious freedom and a quarter of us suffer severe mistreatment. How are we blessed? If that abuse is because of righteousness, then we identify with Jesus. If we cherish what is right, if we love God, if we love his Church, then we will be hated. Just as there is no half-pregnancy, this is also true: we are either on Jesus’ side or not. Persecution for righteousness is a sign that we are blessed to be on God’s side.
The secret of being abused for doing right
Why are we harassed if we do the right thing, like keeping the speed limit, supporting the boss or avoiding slander? In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus said blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right. How does that work? It is a fact of life, that if we do the right thing, we will be insulted and vilified. It is a badge of honor to be abused for doing right. It confirms that we are on God’s side. In that sense it is a blessing. The opposite is also true. If everyone loves us and we are never mistreated, maybe we are doing something wrong. Unwanted attention like ridicule and torment is not always because we have done the right thing. Sometime we are at fault. However, when it does come because we were righteous, it is a blessing.
Spiritually self-satisfied people are shallow and empty, but those who recognize their spiritual poverty are pleasant. Those who mourn for society’s ills are more ready to change than those who ignore them. Humble people have more friends than the arrogant. Desiring to do right is better than wanting to do wrong. Everyone wants mercy; giving it is golden. Purehearted people are true friends. Everyone wants peace, but few work for it. Doing the right thing is still right, even when others abuse us for it.