I’ve decided to share each Monday some thoughts with members and friends of Royal Palm Christian Church. I hope they will be helpful as you seek to grow in faith. This is the first piece I want to share with you.
After I recently preached a series of sermons on the Beatitudes, I decided to write a book on these sayings of Jesus. The Bible is full of strange words. Stories that startled. Statements that perplex. Blessings that befuddle. “Blessed are those who mourn,” (Matthew 5:4) is one of them.
At first blush it may seem that these words are for funeral goers. “Happy are the heartbroken; they must lay their loved ones in the grave.” Such a paradox is possible, but I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying.
It is more likely that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual sensitivity that makes us hurt for a world at odds with God. The Psalmist wrote, “My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept (119:136). Endless wars, the refugee crisis, gross inequality, neglect of the needs of the poor, political and personal corruption should break the hearts of followers of Jesus. Inner agony is the price of spiritual fidelity.
Unfortunately, we have too often bought into the idea that it is a virtue to be a well-adjusted person. We take the world and the pervasiveness of greed, pride, and injustice in stride. Occasionally, something will shock our sensibilities. But usually we count ourselves too helpless, or at least too busy, to be overly bothered by what is taking place in the broader world. We adjust. But we shouldn’t. Not if we intend to follow Jesus.
A symptom of our malady is seen in the apparent inability of many people to distinguish the promotion of righteousness from the problem of self-righteousness. We are afraid of being considered self-righteous and that has enfeebled our capacity to be firmly and distinctly Christian. Real righteousness puts an emphasis on right relations, right relations with other people, near and far, and above all, right relations with God. Where there are right relations love prevails, justice is spread, and peace is found.
Only those who see that the mainstream, self-serving morality of our culture flows toward a whirlpool of destruction will mourn. Only those who know that true fulfillment comes by obeying God, grieve at a world that has gone its own way. But Jesus looked at those whose God-filled hearts were broken by the destruction and evil they could see in the world and he said “Blessed are those who mourn.” And he promised that those who have broken hearts shall be comforted. We look forward to that day in hope as we work for a better world.
Grace and Peace,