A Rallying Cry

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Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
He said:
“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 5:1-12

Insight

The words of Christ found in The Sermon on the Mount were a revolutionary rallying cry that confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day. Jesus’ message set the tone for all that would come afterwards.

He came to not only fulfill the law, forgive our sins and restore our relationship, but to turn our world upside down.

With each word He spoke, Jesus contrasted the way of God with that of the world. He challenged the status quo of the religious establishment. Obedience of the heart meant more than mindless legalism. The last would be first. Love would replace hate and indifference. Forgiveness would win over judgment and vengeance.

Jesus didn’t hold back or sugar coat His message. Neither did He lower the bar of His expectations in hopes of watching His numbers grow. In some regards, Jesus was giving people every reason not to follow Him. Jesus knew the road that lay before Him and what it would ultimately cost those who committed to leave life as they knew it behind. They were committing to a cause much bigger than themselves, which meant an end to their comfort, convenience, safety and security.

Since He was ushering in a new kingdom, it makes sense that Jesus sought out people who didn’t fit the typical mold. Rather than fight for position, authority and recognition, Jesus was looking for individuals willing to lay their agenda down. He didn’t desire people who were artificial, but rather authentic. Jesus wasn’t drawn to power hungry individuals, but to those who made much of other people and brought value to their lives.

Every single trait listed in the Beatitudes conflicted with the worldly values of the times. But, here’s the thing: very little has changed over the years. The same agenda pushed by culture in the days of Jesus is present today. Fight for the spotlight, indulge until you are satisfied, never show weakness, and, always remember to look out for your own interests. Every decision we face should be funneled through the lens of our own personal benefit. Forgiveness made one weak while pride, self-promotion and personal independence were applauded.

So, what supposedly awaits us if we follow this plan? Adoration, fame, recognition, security, contentment, satisfaction and relief reside on the other side. Yet, for some reason we never seem to arrive at this destination. When those feelings arise and quickly dissipate (which they always do), we continue to push harder in hopes that this time the outcome will be different. We keep up this cat and mouse game until we’re exhausted, burnt out, jaded or dissatisfied.

Jesus arrives on the scene and lets us know we are looking for life in all the wrong places.  Are you looking for a life of fulfillment? Thirst for righteousness. Do you want to experience true joy? Love, forgive and fight for justice when others hate. Do you desire true significance? Serve others and work toward reconciliation. Are you yearning for peace? Keep your heart pure.  Life is found when you make the decision to pick up your cross on a daily basis.

In essence, Jesus is saying the only way to truly find your purpose and passion is through the act of dying to yourself. By sacrificially giving yourself away, you are actually receiving much more in return.

Reflection

  • Which trait found in The Beatitudes is the most challenging for you to display? Why is this the case? 

Prayer

God, I confess I wrestle with the act of self-denial. Rather than being counter cultural, I look like everyone else who fights for their own agenda and demands their needs are met first and foremost. Today, I lay down my rights. In return, I pick up Your cross. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

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