Hello, my friends, I hope your week may be off on a good start and finish likewise. In my last post I was talking about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I am continuing on the subject.
The Beatitudes of which Jesus teaches are an internal, progressive work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. After all, by nature we are not meek, pure in heart, or merciful. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness or mourn over sin. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, which require the inner working of the Holy Spirit, because only when these are activated within a person can the rest of the teachings begin being applied. Understand, Jesus’ teachings are not a list of do’s and don’ts to try to live by. Jesus is not interested in religious behavior. No, He is interested in redemption and transformation. And these we are completely dependent on Him and His Spirit, for we cannot accomplish these.
In the second Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Some translations read, “Happy are those who mourn,” but I think the word favorable is more accurate than happy. In any case, what is Jesus saying, that it’s good for people to be sad? No, not quite. He is building upon the first Beatitude, which is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in Spirit are those who recognize they are completely incapable of paying their sin debt before God, that no amount of “good deeds” can cancel their guilt before God. Those who mourn are those who recognize the wickedness of their sins and are not only remorseful, but repentant before the Lord. Such persons will be comforted because these are the ones who will find mercy and justification. A prime example of this can be seen in Jesus’ following parable:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. ~ Luke 18:9-14
Three unfortunate, yet all too common, responses to sin—even in modern Evangelicalism—are to get angry when someone exposes our sins, to simply deny the sinfulness and seriousness of sins, or deflect in order to expose others’ sins to get attention off of ours. Sadly, all three of these inappropriate responses are representative of many churches.
The first response can be seen in those who get upset with the pastor, “Preacher, you went from preaching to meddling! How dare you!” The second response can be seen in statements like, “Everybody is welcomed here! God loves you as you are!” No, God does not love us as we are. He loves us, yes; but He hates our selfishness, meanness, pride, immorality, hatred, etc. Then the third response is all too common in conservative churches, as the sins of society are highlighted and condemned, while all the pride, hypocrisy, partiality, division, anger, and the like are ignored in the lives of the “faithful.”
Is it not strange how easily sin can be detected in others but not ourselves? And when it is our sin, well, we have a justifiable reason (whereas others do not). For example, one’s child comes home from school with a bad attitude. How dare they behave that way! Yet, Dad comes home and slams the door, kicks the dog, and yells at his wife. “Well, I had a bad day,” he says. As if children do not? Young people today face a lot of stress triggers that didn’t exist when I was in school. At a deeper level, persons can judge the various behaviors of society, all the while ignore the arrogance, apathy, greed, lust, and hypocrisy swirling around within their own hearts.
When I was a child, I remember times getting in trouble with friends or family. “What about them?” I would ask. “You are in trouble for what you did,” I’d be told. In Jesus’ parable, notice the Pharisee’s deflection. “God, thank you I’m not like sinners, but I tithe and ….” But elsewhere, Jesus says of the Pharisees,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others…. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ~ Matthew 23:23, 27-28
But notice the response of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. He did not observe the Pharisee’s hypocrisies and such, nor did he mention the sins of others. However, he was very aware of his own sins, and was grieving over them. He could not even lift His eyes, but simply looked down while beating his chest, saying, “God, forgive me, a sinner.”
As Christians, we can all too easily decry the sins of society, but what has happened to our mourning over sin—our sins? How can we curse the darkness if we are guilty of blowing out our candles?
At a personal level, God will deal with others and their sins in His own time. But the Lord asks of me, “Geno, what about your anger, unkind words, and those sinful thoughts entertained in your head? What about your own lack of compassion and laziness when some things could be done?”
Why are we afraid of the Lord’s light exposing us and our sin when He offers forgiveness? Yet, you and I need to take the Lord’s teachings seriously. We are not justified in decrying everyone else’s sins. We find comfort and justification only by turning to Him, and dealing honestly with our own sins. If we would return to genuinely mourning over our own sins, we could maybe see real revival throughout our land.