Friday, October 14, 2011

The end of your rope

The Beatitudes.  The words with which Jesus began His teaching to His disciples about how to live as His followers on this earth.  In the world but not of the world. Dwelling among people but as different from them as He was from those He walked with when He put on flesh and walked dusty roads.  He was, after all, preparing His followers to be the continuing Incarnation of God in this world, filled with the enabling, empowering Holy Spirit to aid and abet us to do what He calls us to do.  So these are the living attitudes, the 'being' attitudes (get it, 'Be-attitudes') of His people.

The heroes of the world are the strong, the successful and the famous.  The powerful.  The heroes of the Body, Jesus tells us in these simple (and simply constructed) verses, are starkly contrasted to those of the world.  But make no mistake, ALL Christians are meant to have these characteristics.  We do not get to pick and choose, do not get to brush some off as incompatible with our temperament and nature.  The whole point is that they are essentially different than human nature and cannot be conjured up of our own accord.  Some may have a natural tendency toward one or another, but the Spiritual quality of which Jesus refers is--MUST BE--produced by Him.  And, if we would be called His disciples, we MUST learn to value what HE values; that is, these qualities, and NOT value the qualities the world calls important.

It is in the light of this stark contrast, that Jesus grabs the attention of His disciples and all those who listen/read His words by His very first sentence.  It's a doozy.  As far as the east is from the west attitude difference from the world.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

This familiar verse, which begins the section of Matthew known as the Beatitudes, contains a difficult notion.  What exactly does it mean to be 'poor in spirit'?  Perhaps you don't struggle with this concept.  Perhaps you have it all wrapped up and walk through life clear about what the idea of this first sentence of Jesus' powerful Sermon on the Mount.  But if that's the case, I might (humbly) point out that you probably have never actually been 'poor in spirit' yourself.  You see, the very words imply we can't quite get to the root of them because, after all, we are poor in spirit.

So, again, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus starts with the notion that we are lost, broken and empty.  The Message puts it this way: "Blessed are you when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there's more of God and His rule."
This is key to all the other Beatitudes.  The poor in spirit cannot live without the supernatural help of God.  And make no mistake, we are all poor in spirit, all spiritually inadequate on our own and completely dependent on Him.  There is NO one in God's community of believers who is NOT.  We need Him for His salvation, His daily strength and grace.  The good news--the amazing, glorious news--of the gospel starts with this verse.  We know that He is on our side when we acknowledge our dependency on Him.

This is what the world doesn't understand.  They don't get that they don't have to do everything, be everything, try and try and try on their own.  The effort to get to the top of the heap, and stay there, the continuing drive simply to survive can do a person in.  And it doesn't have to be this way. That's the good news of the gospel.  The promise is right here in living color (probably red, if your Bible is like mine!), that for the poor in spirit, the Kingdom in heaven is theirs.  For those who recognize their own inadequacy and need of Christ, He throws open the doors of the Kingdom of heaven.  It's all theirs.  And here's the thing, it's not simply a future promise--that we'll get to heaven someday, that we'll go through those gates and be welcomed home (though we certainly will, and what a home-going it will be!)--but THIS very day, the Kingdom is here.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
 RIGHT now, all His grace is available. Between us and in us, we have the Kingdom.

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