Today, Jesus begins the series of teachings that we call the “Sermon on the Mount”. The Beatitudes – as this part is called – set out the qualities of someone who lives in the Kingdom. A Kingdom-dweller doesn’t belong to one category – rather he or she belongs to all of them. They are poor in spirit – gentle – at times mourning – they hunger and thirst for what is right – they are merciful – and seekers after peace.
Where the Ten Commandments offer clear guidelines for behavior – what is and what is not allowed – the Beatitudes speak more of an inner disposition.
For the one who loves God, the desire is always to live in a way that maintains the harmony and communion of their relationship.
It begins to sound idyllic – and, as the poetry and rhythm of beautiful images of Kingdom living and the fruits it bears flow into our heads – we can find ourselves lulled into a sense of security that this is how life is going to be.
But there is a sting in the tale.
Jesus – as we have seen before – is a realist. He knows that the world is not yet ready for people who live according to Kingdom principles. He knows that all too often those who hunger and thirst for what is right will be disappointed – those who are gentle will be exploited – those who are merciful cannot expect mercy to be shown them – and those who mourn often have very good reason to – and cannot expect comfort. And so He concludes with words that seem hard – but are realistic – and, in fact, are a source of strength and comfort.
Jesus is pointing out a simple truth – one that His own life – and death bore testimony to…The world cannot handle Kingdom people. But He reassures His listeners – and us: even when the world hates you for living as a Kingdom person – or ridicules you – or exploits you – even then, remember that you are blest by God. Those are the very times when you can be most sure that you are living according to the values of heaven and bringing them into the world.