This blog post started as the introduction to a book review (details below), but I rather quickly realized I had two posts on my hands, not one:
There are two quotes about the beatitudes that I love:
“Our present day Christianity, anemic and weak from parasites that have fastened themselves on its life through the centuries, needs a blood transfusion from the sermon on the mount in order to renew radiant health within it that it may throw off those parasites and arise to serve and save the world.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of the Mount
“On first reading [the Sermon on the Mount] you feel that it turns everything upside down, but the second time you read it you discover that it turns everything right side up. The first time you read it you feel that it is impossible; the second time, you feel that nothing else is possible.”
Chesterton’s statement is valuable on a number of levels, but for our sake, it demonstrates just how counter-cultural the Beatitudes are, no matter the culture or generation in which we happen to live. The Beatitudes will always stand in direct contrast to the ways of the world, the selfish, self-centered focused on amassing more and more power or beauty or wealth, or whatever idol happens to be your particular attraction.
The good news is, we know where to turn if we want a deeper, more profound faith that might speak to those inside the walls of the church and those outside as well. It has to do with a paradoxical reality of the Christian faith: when Christians take Jesus’ kingdom-oriented, upside-down world seriously, a world where we freely sacrifice for the sake of our neighbors, that is where the Christian faith is strongest. When we ignore these teachings, focusing instead on our “rights,” and asserting our power over others, our witness shrinks down to almost nothing.
Why? Because asserting rights and power is the way of the world, and there’s nothing particularly appealing about looking like everyone else. We become “stained-glass” version of the broader culture. If someone looks at your life, do they see anything different? Does Jesus’ teaching manifest itself in the way you do your job, treat your family, pay your taxes?
What people do respond to, and what is particularly winsome, is a faith that looks like Jesus’: a faith where sacrificing ourselves is more important than getting our way.
At some point, my hope is to create a sermon series on the Beatitudes that will bring together a variety of resources on these seminal teachings of Jesus. But in the meantime, if you are interested in diving deeper into the Beatitudes, consider reading my review of Mark Scandrette’s book on the topic: The Ninefold Path of Jesus: Hidden Wisdom of the Beatitudes. We also have a bunch of sermon and liturgical resources on the Beatitudes you can access.
This reflection first appeared in our weekly newsletter. To get content like this, along with our weekly selections from our library, click here.
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