“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying:
“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 after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:1-12
It’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it? And it’s certainly counter-cultural. In today’s Western society, we are told to grow up to be strong & assertive, charismatic & likable, rich in every way, initiated into the things of this world. To make it, we must fight to be seen, to be heard, to be respected. That is the “kingdom of the world”. And it makes sense to us, to me, because our very minds are seeped in sin, in brokenness, in pride and self-centeredness.
But then there’s the “kingdom of heaven”: this holy, grace-filled rule of God is both a current reality (found in the incarnation of Christ and indwelling of the Holy Spirit) and a prophecy (the future hope of the new heaven and new earth). If I’ve learned anything from the book of Matthew, it’s that this kingdom of heaven is the very opposite of the kingdom of the world. Christ promises blessing on those who are poor in spirit, mournful, meek. While we seek strength, Paul tells us instead to delight in our weakness. Over and over again, the Biblical writers told us to rejoice in persecution.
As children who have been adopted by God, Christ’s work in us is one of sanctification. And that means righting our perspectives, our attitudes, our priorities, so that we live for the kingdom of heaven. It may seem illogical to stay naive when those around you consider it foolishness, or to chose to mourn rather than pursue happiness, or to show mercy when it can come back to bite you. But, our striving for righteousness necessitates it. And we are promised so much as a result. Look at the second half of those verses…to be blessed, and in such incredible ways, is certainly worth being counter-cultural.
p.s. If you want to listen to the sermon that inspired and guided this post, you can find it here.