I’ve made the claim with the Jacob’s Well folks that these “Blessed” sayings, usually called the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, are the most dangerous words Jesus ever spoke. I’ve wondered about that claim a lot, but the more I wonder the more I feel it’s true. Jesus is inciting revolution with these “Blessed are the _____, for they shall receive ______” sayings. Not revolution against the Roman Government, or the Jewish faith of his time. Jesus is declaring war on reality – at least the reality that most of us subscribe to most of the time.
In this speech, which according to Matthew is Jesus’ first public statement recorded, Jesus introduces who he will be and what he will be about with an almost offensive idea of grace. Grace that isn’t just there for us when we screw up, but that is searching for the screw up in us as the most important, useful, possible way to get a foothold in our lives. God loves us, not despite our undeserving nature, but precisely because and for our undeserving nature.
As a Christ follower who has hitched his wagon to the Lutheran team I am not new to the idea of grace and its centrality and all importance, but this stretches me.
This post meant to be about the word “blessed.” It is a hard word to define. The Greek makarios doesn’t really have an English equivalent. ‘Happy’, ‘lucky’, ‘fortunate’ don’t really do it, and ‘blessed’ itself… just doesn’t mean anything intrinsically. Rob Bell cites theologian Frederick Dale Bruner who proposes that in the beatitudes Jesus is saying, “God is on your side.” I like that. I think it works. It isn’t because you’re good enough, or ready or anything, it means that your need has opened the door to God’s presence. Our success, strength, even spiritual prowess has a way of making us self-sufficient. God can’t be on that side, no matter how godly it may look, seem, feel. The only thing that matters is the only thing that is true; that we need God – desperately.
In the spirit of Bruner’s “God is on your side” and my wrestling with Jesus’ own words, my proposal is this:
To be Blessed means to have the Door to God opened. Not opened by getting good enough, but by needing God enough.
and then the opposite comes clear, and this could be another posting…
To be Cursed means to have the Door to God closed. Not closed by breaking rules or not being good enough, but by the deception of self-sufficiency.
Maybe I can find God in who I actually am rather than who I know I ought to be but never am. That would be good news.