Sunday, April 10, 2016

This week's lesson (April 9-15); the Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes are good news.


To be sure, we often view them as a burden -- as a long list of commands that would be impossible to keep in the best of times, much less in the face of troubles. ("Gotta be meek. Gotta be humble. Gotta be pure in heart.")

Yet as John Calvin pointed out, there is really only one command in the Beatitudes: the command to "rejoice and be glad!"

That is because the Beatitudes are best read as a survival manual -- as a guide that shows us three ways to endure suffering.

First, they list the tools that help us cope with adversity: meekness, humility, mercy, purity, and all the rest.

Second, they list the rewards that follow adversity -- rewards summed up in Christ's phrase, "the kingdom of heaven," then explained in terms of "finding comfort," "seeing God," and "being shown mercy."

Third, they describe the One who endured adversity -- both in terms of his character (i.e. humble, meek, and pure in heart), and his reward (i.e. the kingdom of heaven).

In short, the Beatitudes are:

  • ethical ("This is what we should do now!")
  • apocalyptic ("This is what God will do in the future!")
  • and salvific ("That is what Christ has done in the past!")
What more do you need to rejoice?

This post first appeared on December 28, 2007.

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