The Beatitudes and the True Meaning of Peace
Every Sunday liturgy, the Orthodox sing the Beatitudes, the introduction to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. They are traditionally considered to be the most concise summary of what our spiritual life in Christ should look like.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven.”
To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to recognize that everything we have comes from God and to be free of the arrogance, pride and the passions of this fallen world. This state will also lead to freedom from material bonds, so the poor in spirit may also be poor in material goods.
Those who mourn are those who recognize the foolishness of living in a world without God and the emptiness of the people whose purpose in life is to gain more stuff, more money, more power.
The meek are those who do not put themselves first, they are not arrogant and selfish. The meek are gentle and kind and do not return evil for evil but strive always to overcome evil by good.
Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are the ones striving daily to become more Christlike in their dealings with the world.
The merciful forgo self-justification and recognize their need of God’s mercy. They forgo self-righteousness and extend their mercy to others.
The pure in heart are blinded to the temptations of the fallen world and are focused on the light emanating from the face of God.
The peacemakers are free from anxiety and fear despite their troubles. They are filled with peace of God which overflows to others around them overcoming evil with good.
If anyone following any of the previous beatitudes is persecuted, then they are blessed, since they are being persecuted for righteousness sake.
I used to think the Beatitudes were talking about the very best Christians, the saints, those who had it all together as far as their spiritual life was concerned. Now I realize Christ was talking to every single person who wants to follow him.
If I claim to be Christian, I need to evaluate my own behavior against this Christ-given summary of a righteous person as outlined in the Beatitudes. Am I free from arrogance, pride and passions? Am I willing to give up all material possessions for the sake of the kingdom?
Do I grieve for those, including myself who are blinded to God’s presence by the glaring, blasting temptations of riches, fame and power? Do I strive to take my eyes off of the empty promises of the world and keep only the image of God before me?
Am I easily angered? If someone offends me, do I lash out with thoughts of justification and revenge or do I respond in love and gentleness?
Am I a calming influence on those around me or do I gossip and stir up strife, anger and hatred towards others?
Do I feel persecuted because I am humbly living the life of Christ or because I am being a spiritual novice?
These are some of the questions I need to ask myself every minute of every day. I frequently find myself in situations where I fall short of a Godly response, even if it’s just listening to my snarky inner voice’s reaction to a news article.
‘Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven’.
Ultimately, I want to walk the path of joy—after all, the joy of the Lord is my strength. I once thought I needed joy in order to be a good Christian and would try to manufacture it by attending emotional Christian services and concerts. I have come to realize true joy is much quieter than that. True joy comes through living the Beatitudes; from striving after righteousness, seeking the face of God and living in the light of Christ’s saving grace. True joy is the journey towards the kingdom of Heaven.
My love for others may be weak at first, but as I begin to exercise that love, it will grow stronger. As I begin to forgive, I can forgive more. As I turn my eyes towards God, I can begin to see more clearly. With each step, my joy grows and, Lord willing, in some small way, I can become a blessing to others as I have been blessed by God.
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