One of the many struggles of the modern church is its ability to connect to the heart, mind, and soul of the normal, everyday person. How do we apply this list of rules, parables, stories, characters, and lessons to the 2015 Christian? How can we possibly keep people interested in something that seemingly happened 2,000 years ago? How can I apply this to my life?
In a recent church study, I dove into the Beatitudes of Jesus. For a quick brush up of the Beatitudes, they are the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5: 3-12, and they go like this:
“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 shall 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 for their Righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3-10, NIV)
The word “righteousness” seems to have been coined by the Church. In the context we hear it in today, its meaning seems to be referring to something spiritual or eternal. However, the word “righteousness”, defined in the dictionary, actually means, “being or having the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” The Greek form of the word means, “having justice”. Being righteous is not something that only can occur in the depths of the church building or in the sweet whispers of prayer. Being righteous is not something that occurs from voting for the right political party or posting a Facebook status about something you think you have the correct opinion about. Being righteous comes from within you. Being righteous involves humanitarian issues like taking care of the planet, providing for the impoverished, and helping the homeless. Being righteous involves human issues, like not flipping of the person beside you who cut you off, or seeing past a stereotype.
Being righteous is not about being right, being righteous is about doing the right thing.
The final Beatitude reads, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for their righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing the right thing. Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing the good thing. The Kingdom of Heaven is referred to 32 times in the book of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven is the basis for the teachings of Jesus and the basis for the New Testament. The Kingdom of Heaven is what many would say is the ultimate goal. However, in Luke 17:20, Jesus reveals to us that the Kingdom of Heaven is somewhere entirely different. Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is not something that can be observed, nor will people say ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is’ because the Kingdom of Heaven is W I T H I N Y O U.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is within ME. The Kingdom of Heaven is right here, right now. I have hope for eternal life because I am a believing Christian and I am a part of the Kingdom of Heaven! The Bible is God and I am with God and God is within me. How applicable is His word? It affects my every breath!
Start reading the Beatitudes in this way:
“Blessed are the humble.
Blessed are those who suffer.
Blessed are those who trust in God.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for doing the right thing.
Blessed are those who are understanding.
Blessed are those who are utterly honest.
Blessed are those who edify one another.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing good.”
I challenge you to open your mind and start reading the Bible through this lens: God is within you. The Kingdom of Heaven resides in you. The Word of God is applicable to you. All you have to do is look within yourself.