Monday, May 16, 2011

Sermon on the Mount Part 2: Hungry

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
                                                                                             (Matthew 5:3-6 NIV)

In Part 1, we looked at how the Beatitudes outline the process for living a blessed life.  The first step is to recognize that we must come to Jesus admitting that, compared with him, we are spiritually bankrupt. In short, we have nothing to offer him.

This realization should evoke in us an emotional response, and I'm not talking about joy.  Who wants to admit to being poor?  If we've been kidding ourselves that we have it all together ("I'm okay, you're okay") or that we will be able to improve with just a little more effort, and then we suddenly realize that we are NOT okay... I don't know about you, but
that makes me more than just a little bit sad.  Now, some people are more outwardly emotional than others ("spewers"), and some of us are more reserved ("stuffers"), but all of us know what it feels like to mourn.  Some have mourned the death of a loved one; some have mourned the death of a relationship, a dream, a hope...  When we lose our self-image, it is only natural to mourn.

And herein lies the good news.  Jesus promises that we'll be comforted.  The word "comfort" comes from the root fort, which is the same root found in fortress, fortitude, and fortify.  It means "strength."  The prefix com means "with," "together," or "alongside."  Literally, comfort means that someone comes alongside us and imparts strength.  In this case, the "someone" is Jesus Christ himself.  When we compare our spiritual state to his, see how morally bankrupt we are, and mourn our wretched state, then Jesus comes alongside us and gives us strength.

Which brings us to the part about being "meek."

Most people, when asked what this word means, come up with synonyms like shy, timid, quiet, weak, mousey, and so forth.  The word "meek" is more properly understood to mean "power under control."  True meekness is best exemplified by a show horse being put through its paces by a skilled rider.  The horse outweighs its rider by a thousand pounds, and could easily kill the rider if it so chose.  However, its power is controlled as the horse obeys the rider's instructions; the horse is meek.  So when Jesus described himself as "meek" (Matthew 11:29 KJV), he didn't mean that he was a wimp or a doormat.  He meant that he was, in fact, powerful, but that his power was under control -- God's control.  

Once we have acknowledged our spiritual poverty, mourned, and been filled with Christ's strength, we NEED to bring that newfound strength under God's control.  Otherwise, we are like a wildfire or a bolt of lightning.  Uncontrolled power destroys.  Be very grateful that the meek will inherit the earth, because when the non-meek are in control, we do a pretty good job of messing it up.  Just look around.  Jesus promised a remade, restored, good-as-new earth when he returns -- the Garden of Eden all over again -- but without meekness, we'd muck it up within a hundred years, wouldn't we?

Personally, I want to be meek.  I hate being helpless; I want the power to overcome the hardships in my life.  I want the power to defeat addictions, the power to resist temptations, the power to heal the hurts that others have caused.  Like Bruce Almighty, I want the power to make the world a better place.  At the same time, I would hate being in a position of power without the guidance to use that power wisely.  I don't want to be Hitler.  I want to be righteous

And that leads us to the fourth of the blessings.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We are never hungry for something that we have enough of, have you noticed?  If I want my sons to eat dinner, I have to put the refrigerator off-limits in the afternoon. Every parent has heard it: "But Mom, I'm starving to death!"  I certainly don't want that to happen, but I do want them hungry when I put that dinner plate in front of them.  Sometimes I think that God has allowed injustice to continue in the world so that we will be starving for justice... maybe even to the point where we overcome our own apathy and do something to make it better.  

There is enough righteousness in my life that I am not starving for it.  I snack on it periodically, but God wants me hungry for it.  More than that, he wants me thirsty.  The body can go days, even weeks, without food, but water is another matter.  When I get to the place where I need righteousness in my life the way I need water, then I will have arrived at the place where God designed me to live.  Then -- and only then -- will he fill me with his righteousness until I am so stuffed I actually overflow (John 7:37-39).

So how do I get to that place?  Go back and look at the process again, from the beginning.  The first step is to make the decision to pursue Christ, to become his disciple, to commit to becoming just like him.  Then, comparing my spiritual state to his and recognizing that I have nothing to offer him, I must allow that fact to break my heart.  Jesus does the work at this point, coming alongside me and giving me his strength; all I have to do is acknowledge that the power is his and allow him to control how I use it.  If I am obedient to his leading, I will get to a place where I crave righteousness and cannot live without it, and then he will fill me with it.

A process.  An ongoing, daily process.  (Luke 9:23)

And we still have four blessings to go.
to be continued.....

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