ADVENT IS UPON US: Waiting for the coming of Christ. But do we really know who he is or what his kingdom brings? His Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount are good reminders.
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Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount simply has “blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). Taking Matthew and Luke together, the kingdom will become a blessing to those who are afflicted by both spiritual and material poverty. The physical oppression of the poor will be a regular subject in this kingdom, but the spiritual impoverishment of the affluent will also be addressed and healed. Spiritual poverty is often the result of having too much and no longer depending on God. Jesus offers blessings and healing to those who are both poor and poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Those who have the capacity to mourn and weep for the world will be comforted by the coming of this new order. Jesus’ disciples would later hear him say that loving their neighbor as themselves was one of the two great commandments (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27). To feel the pain of the world is to participate in the very heart of God and one of the defining characteristics of God’s people.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Christ’s kingdom turns our understanding of power upside-down. Mary’s Song, the Magniﬁcat, promises the same when she prays about what Christ’s coming means: “He has scattered the proud ... brought down the powerful from their thrones ... lifted up the lowly ... ﬁlled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51-53). And when Jesus is asked who will be ﬁrst in his kingdom, he tells them it will be the servants of all.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be ﬁlled.
To be hungry for “righteousness,” a word in the scriptures that is often synonymous with “justice,” will be a leading characteristic of Jesus’ new order. Justice—social, economic, racial, and gender—is at the core of the kingdom of God. Those who long for justice, who are hungry and thirsty for it, demonstrate that they belong to a God who promises it.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Those who have the grace to show mercy and forgiveness will be an example now. If you need to be forgiven for anything, the only way to receive it is to also offer it, says Jesus. There is no way that all our conﬂicts can be rectiﬁed in this very human world, but those who have learned to forgive by practicing reconciliation herald the kingdom of God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Pure in heart” is another way of saying “integrity,” something that our culture sorely lacks. We long for people with an inner quality of truthfulness, honesty, goodness, and honor. Little is more countercultural in our society and nothing will better demonstrate the quality of true leadership.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Conﬂict is found in every corner of our world, and violence is the habitual way of resolving our grievances and disputes. What we need most are not just peace-lovers, who talk against all the violence, but peacemakers, who learn how to resolve our endless and inevitable human conﬂicts without recourse to such destructive methods. In this new order, those who possess the skills, behaviors, disciplines, and courage of peacemaking will have the honor of being called “children of God.”
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
There is a special and honored place for those who are persecuted or who give their lives for the cause of right. Even in death, their spirits seem to live on and inspire others to follow in their steps. Those who are persecuted for the sake of what is right will inherit the kingdom, says Jesus.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You may be reviled, attacked, and falsely accused of many things, all on account of Jesus and his kingdom. But don’t worry; you will ﬁnd good company with the biblical prophets, who were often persecuted for proclaiming the word of God. Instead, rejoice and be glad, for God rewards such good and world-changing behavior.
Jim Wallis is editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine. A version of this column appeared in his book On God’s Side.
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