Your Map to Blessed Living

Part 8 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

So far in our Living Waters Series, we have discussed what Jesus taught about love for God & others, as well as what it takes to begin the journey of discipleship. What we’ve discovered so far is that everything Jesus ever taught reveals the way to love more perfectly. So now that we’ve covered some of the fundamentals, we’d like to jump right in to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7) and make our way through each of Christ’s teachings there. We’ll be a little flexible, jumping around the rest of the four gospels where we feel led and where it seems appropriate, but for the most part, we’ll be sticking to Matthew 5-7 for the next good chunk of our Living Waters Series.

That means we’re starting with the beatitudes! The goal of our Living Waters Series is to reveal how everything Jesus said really is Good News (i.e. the Gospel), and part of that revelation is how all of his teachings show us better ways to love God, our neighbor, and each other. It may seem obvious that the beatitudes are Good News, but on closer examination, many of us (especially in first-world countries) don’t quite fit the description of those who are called blessed. Not only that, but when you really think about what Jesus is saying, it’s all very counter-intuitive!

That’s because Jesus is introducing a new Kingdom–the Kingdom of God–a new Way of life. Those who we normally think of as being blessed/privileged (e.g. citizens of first-world countries), these people are actually set at a disadvantage–according to Jesus–in entering his new Kingdom (Luke 18:24-28). Our privilege makes us comfortable, less interested in the new Way of life that Jesus teaches about. In contrast, those who are oppressed, impoverished, and suffering have an easier time seeing the Good News of Jesus’ teachings without needing to be shown by others (like what we’re doing in this series). These blessed ones are much more likely to accept Jesus’ Way of life and the Kingdom of God that his teachings herald.

However, this does not mean that those of us who were born in first-world countries cannot learn to adopt the attitudes that Jesus identifies as truly blessed. So that will be the main point that we discuss as we journey through the beatitudes together: how to live more like the beatitudes! And of course, we will continue with our usual theme of how to love God & others better using Jesus’ teachings.

The problem that often comes with some of the more familiar teachings of Jesus (as with anything that gets repeated over and over) is that we often lose sight of what it actually means. So when the meaning of a word or a phrase or a whole passage begins to break down, we need to slow down and think deeply about what it’s actually saying. That’s why we will explore each verse on its own over the next few weeks, really taking time with each line of the beatitudes to make sure we don’t miss any nuggets of wisdom from the Word of God who is Jesus (John 1:1 & 14, Revelation 19:13)! We’ll use Matthew’s version as our chronological structure, adding the parallel from Luke’s version where one exists.

But for now, we’ll just brush over the beatitudes together to get the whole picture fresh in our minds. We started practicing this slow reading with the beatitudes ourselves, and one of the things that became apparent to us is that Matthew’s version seems to be focused on the state of one’s spirit (with the possible exception of the last bit about persecution), whereas Luke’s version seems to be focused on the physical state. We’ll quote the two passages side-by-side so you can see what we mean.

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.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children 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 5:3-12

Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Luke 6:20-23

Does this mean that one version is wrong and the other one is right? That may be a discussion better left to those who are more qualified to speculate on the historical reliability of the gospels. For us as simple disciples of Jesus, we will file this revelation away in a folder titled “Awaiting Further Light”. And in the meantime, we will take both versions as equally true. And anyway, that just feels right, doesn’t it? Jesus’ life & ministry seems to focus a lot on finding the right balance between spiritual and physical. So it would make sense for us to also focus on trying to achieve this balance between spirit & matter: both our spiritual and physical sides need to be brought into proper standing.

And that’s what the beatitudes are all about! Jesus describes for us what the most excellent state of being is. He’s telling us what kind of person is blessed, and the amazing thing is that anyone can adopt this lifestyle! Anyone can choose to develop these blessed characteristics, thus moving us all closer to that ideal of love for God & others that we first set out to accomplish at the beginning of our Living Waters Series.

Now that we’ve brushed over both versions, we’re ready to go line-by-line through the beatitudes to see what we can uncover together. So join us next week as we explore how each verse reveals a beautiful way of life which improves our ability to love God, our neighbor, and each other!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

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