I say it often, and truly believe, if we would live the Sermon on the Mount our world would be turned upside down. That you and I would be altogether incapable of external religiosity because of the inward attention the spiritual kingdom is given in these words of our Savior. When our “righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees” in heart-filled adoration rather than pious observation it is then and only then that the words of His message come to life.
How do you understand the Beatitudes (the Blessings) with which Jesus begins the Sermon (Matthew 5:3-12)? How would you write them in your own words in such a way as to impact you right where you are in life and in such a way that is current and relevant to the world in which you find yourself a part?
I love the way Eugene Peterson does this very thing, paraphrasing in The Message:
- You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.
- You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
- You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
- You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
- You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being “care-full,” you find yourselves cared for.
- You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
- You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
- You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
- Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
When we internalize the message of Christ and realize that He is speaking to us (and not just “them”), it is then that things begin to change for us. It is then that He changes us.
Glory to God!