This Changes Everything.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will receive mercy. God blesses the pure in heart, for they will see God. God blesses the peacemakers — those who work for peace — for they will be called the children of God. — Jesus of Nazareth
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins to show us how his kingdom works. Right in the middle of what we call the Beatitudes, he makes these four pronouncements. As I look at the current state of our culture, I hear the Spirit pulling us back to the core of what sets us — citizens of Christ’s kingdom — apart.
When you feel the lack of right-ness in yourself and your world, when you reach out for and seek after shalom, justice, the putting-right of all things both internally and in the world around you, God blesses you. He promises that you will have what you long for because that’s what’s on his heart as well. Since the very beginning, God has been telling us that a new heavens and a new earth are coming, when heaven fully comes to earth, when the cosmos and Jesus’ bride will be resurrected. In that day all will be made right, nothing broken, nothing missing. Through Christ, however, heaven has been rent open and the Age to Come has begun to spread in the here-and-now. Therefore we can also have a foretaste today of the righteousness and justice of eternity future.
When you are merciful, yes to other human beings, but also to yourself, you mirror how God treats us. He does not treat us as our sins deserve, but he is rich in mercy and kindness. He is slooooow to anger and eager, so very eager, to be kind to all. He works tirelessly — literally — to make it possible for all people to encounter his goodness and covenantal love. When you assume the best about others, when you overlook an offense, when you give yourself a break instead of beating yourself up, God blesses you there. You are sowing mercy and you will reap mercy as a result. So be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful.
When you are pure in heart, you see God. This can be a tough one for a lot of us, as we can read it as something like, “When you are completely sinless and perfectly resist all temptation, then and only then will you finally see God.” Be honest, now, that’s probably what you thought or at least felt. :-) Hear me, though: be honest with yourself. For that is a huge key to understanding this statement of Jesus. When we examine the root of the word translated as, “pure in heart,” it carries the idea of an undivided heart. A heart which is not at war with itself, which does not split affection between God and this world, a heart which is committed. It’s also a picture of honesty. This is why we don’t condemn the Psalmists when they cry out in anguish and anger. That’s purity of heart! And yes, when we look ourselves full-on without stuffing away anything, it enables us to partner with the Holy Spirit and grow in sanctification. You can’t repent of a sin that you refuse to acknowledge. You can’t be healed of something that you refuse to look at. When we press into God with undivided hearts we find peace, perspective, and we grow in Christlikeness. Character is hugely important and is one of the many things which sets us apart, yet it all starts here: honesty with ourselves and honesty with God. You’ll see him at work in you and around you.
God blesses the peacemakers. It’s when we work for peace that others around us realize that we’re God’s kids. Isn’t this what we all long for? For the lost and broken to suddenly realize that God is real, and that the Jesus we follow is the one true and living way? It’s interesting to me that this statement follows the pure in heart declaration. When we are honest with ourselves and God, we give our hearts to him, we essentially are making peace with God and with ourselves. The natural outgrowth of that is that we then make peace with others around us and we enable other people to make peace between themselves. It starts with internal peace — through Christ we’re at peace with God, and through the indwelt Holy Spirit we can be in a state of internal peace as well — which lets us show others the way. This absolutely has real world implications. It must, in fact, mean that when we literally make peace, God blesses us. Find ways to end conflict. Look for ways to love people with whom you disagree. Find ways (and pray) for wars to end. We must remember that political divides do not exist in the Kingdom of God because we ultimately have only one King. This should enable us to make peace with our brothers and sisters and to show the world how to have peace. Fight for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
A Call to Action
This is our stance, our internal posture, our cause for action:
- To long for the world to be made right. To remember that there is an Age to Come for which we long, and that Jesus has brought and is bringing that Age to Come, that Kingdom to our broken world.
- To be kind, merciful, loving, generous, and great-hearted to ourselves and to all those around us, thereby demonstrating the kindness of the God we follow. Let your speech be seasoned with salt. Suffer yourself to be defrauded. Love your enemies.
- To come to grips with ourselves so that our hearts are fully devoted to God. To pour out our hearts like water before the Lord, to give him our anxieties, our anger, and everything which taints our relationships with others. To seek personal holiness and co-labor with the Holy Spirit inside us to become more Christlike. To remember that we may have a log in our eye before we go after the speck in someone else’s eye.
- To work for peace. Both internal peace and external peace. To, within the body of Christ, fight for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And to dream up new ways to show the world that we are the peacemakers, and this is what Jesus looks like. This is how Yahweh acts: he never stops pushing to make a way for reconciliation. We’re his ambassadors, after all. Put aside divisions and call others to Jesus. It’s around Jesus that we gather. It’s Christ alone which unifies us, through the Holy Spirit which lives inside all of God’s people.
The result of that call to action? We will be satisfied, we will receive mercy, we will see God, and so will the world around us. And this, people of God, this changes everything.
P.S. If, after reading this, you’re still feeling anxious or out of sorts, remember Philippians 4:6–7: “Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well. And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over your hearts and minds in King Jesus.” I’d also encourage you to read an article I wrote called “Unreasonable Peace,” which can be found here >>
P.P.S. If you’re curious what translation was used for the scripture passage at the top, it’s a combination of the LEB, NRSV, ESV, NLT, and NTE translations.