If you are unhappy with the world you’re in or even with yourself, read on.

Today’s Sunday message carried a revolutionary take on the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus famously began the eight opening statements with “Blessed are…”

According to Pastor Chad, 90% of the commentaries interpret the Beatitudes like this: “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ That means we have to beat ourselves up, feel terrible about ourselves, then God will give us the kingdom of heaven.”

Now, the revolutionary take goes like this: “If you ARE poor in spirit, God invites you to join the kingdom of heaven.”

The same goes to the other Beatitudes. People would think that they have to go around with a sad face (mourning), lament what a rotten person they are (hungry and thirsty for righteousness), do their best not to sin (pure in heart), and so on. The Kingdom of God becomes something that is earned or deserved.

But what Jesus was actually teaching was this: the kingdom of this world has no place for those who are poor in spirit, mourning, pure in heart, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, working for peace, persecuted and reviled. That kingdom values wealth, power, pleasure, even corruption and violence.

He reveals another Kingdom, the Kingdom of a good and beautiful God. He, in effect, says, “If you ARE poor in spirit, if you ARE mourning, if you ARE hungry and thirsty for righteousness, then come. I have a spot for you.”

Do you see the distinction? It is “be” versus “are”. The Beatitudes are taken as “Be Attitudes”: you have to BE a certain kind of person and you have EARNED your way into God’s kingdom.

But the radical, counterintuitive view is “Blessed ARE”. If you ARE a certain kind of person, you are INVITED to God’s kingdom. One is by effort, the other by grace.

The way to be truly blessed, then, is to realize that there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more (or less, for that matter) and thus obligate Him to bless us.

God has already proven His great love at the Cross. Our full blessings are through the One Who died there. Thus, we lay ourselves to His grace, accept His invitation to enter the Kingdom, and live by faith. We do good not as a grudging duty, but a glad response.

I have two other takes to Pastor Chad’s sermon, which I consider to be his best so far during his tenure at the Union Church of Manila.

First, an alternative view of the fourth Beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”.

I paraphrase Pastor Chad thusly: “If you long to live a righteous life but keep falling into temptation… if you want to be more virtuous or be free from addictions, but can’t… if you are so miserable and disappointed with yourself that, like Peter, you tell Jesus “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”… then come into the Kingdom, and you will find satisfaction there.”

I have a different view. “If you are dismayed by all the corruption and cruelty you see in this world… if you long to see rivers of righteousness… if you yourself have suffered what is unjust and unfair… then come into the Kingdom, and you will find satisfaction there.”

My second take? Come into the Kingdom, and you will find wholeness there.

Soli Deo Gloria!

#SermonOnTheMount #blessed #blessings #beatitude

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