Friday, March 1, 2013

The Beatitudes

If you have a Sunday school background, you probably remember reciting the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit... those who mourn... the meek... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness... the merciful... the pure in heart... the peacemakers... those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." 

What does it all mean, really? Is it simply a beautiful poem, or a genuine recipe for everyday life? How can one relate the seemingly nebulous blessings it offers--to be called children of God, to be comforted, to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven--to our daily needs?

Small wonder that the Beatitudes begin the Sermon on the Mount, which as a whole has been described as human logic stood on its head. Those who display the seemingly natural desire to have their good works appreciated are called hypocrites; those who save up for the future are scolded for lack of faith and for ignoring Heavenly treasures. And Jesus repeatedly announces, "You have heard it said [based on God's own commandments, no less]... But I say to you." 

How can any human being ever live up to standards like that?

None can--under our own power. The whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is not to impress us with some unattainable ideal, but to impress us with our need for the Holy Spirit's strength within. Only in His strength can we work our way toward God's ideals; He Himself is the "rock" referenced in Mt. 7:24-27, the Foundation on which a God-centered life is built.

Consider that as you read this poetic paraphrase of the Beatitudes.

When you know that you have nothing,
When your souls are free of pride,
Then you are God's Kingdom children,
And for you He will provide.

When your hearts are truly breaking
From the world's and your own sin,
Then God's comfort rests upon you
As His Spirit works within.

When you're free of proud ambition
And complaints about your lot,
God will keep the whole world for you,
More than you had ever sought.

When you crave God's righteous blessing
Over any thing of earth,
He will shower His grace upon you,
Gift of matchless, priceless worth.

When your heart is kind and caring
For the world of human needs,
God extends His hand in mercy,
And your life He richly feeds.

When your heart is pure and righteous,
And you live to do God's will,
He will show His own Self to you,
And your longings He'll fulfill.

When you seek God's peace and justice
For the world as for a friend,
You will be His blessed children,
And your joy will never end.

When you take a stand for Jesus
In the face of taunts and pain,
God will keep great riches for you,
And your earthly loss be gain.