June, 2007

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Costly Discipleship Matt. 5:9

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

At first glance it seems that Jesus repeats himself in the 9th of the Beatitudes. Both it and the 8th deal with persecution. The difference is that with the pronoun “you” he personalizes it. One can read the 8th rather philosophically, but in the 9th it is you and I who can anticipate persecution. Further, the reward offered to those who are true disciples of Jesus are eternal in heaven. Being a Kingdom person in this world is something great, but to have eternal life and reward in Heaven is far more significant.

One of the great commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount is by D. Bonhoeffer, a modern myrtar. He was hung by Hitler for his involvement in a plot to kill this tyrant. The title is “The Cost of Discipleship.” If you have not read it, please do so. It is very powerful.

Jesus, of course, experienced persecution for living a life characterized by the qualities presented in the Beatitudes. Reflect upon the events of the last few days of his life as recorded by Matthew (Mt. 21:1-27:56) Consider how he demonstrated poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, righteousness, mercy, a pure heart, and peacemaking. Consider how he was persecuted. Obviously, Jesus practiced what he preached.

When I consider my life, I find many times and ways that I have failed to practice what the Beatitudes teach. How about you?

Persecution. Matt. 5:8

Monday, June 4th, 2007

The language here seems to move from person to person relations to group to group relations. The more persons involved in a conflict, the more complex it is to resolve in most cases.

Jesus knew and later experienced the fact that efforts at peacemaking, at reconciliation, are not always successful. So, he makes a major promise of reward for those who will try to act as a peacemaker.

Most Christians have experienced some persecution for being a peacemaker. For some it is mild. For others it has cost them their mortal life. Today, as in that day, persons are being hurt, punished and killed to being followers of Jesus.

They are assured a place in God’s Kingdom.This fact has strengthened the resolve of many to stay the course.

Peacemakers. Matt. 5:7

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

It seems to me that God wills for humankind to live in peace: with him (Rom. 5:1) and with one another. (Mt. 22:34-40). Here again we are looking at something which is not totally dependent up our own personal effort. Peace involves two or more persons.

Peace is most possible when the previous beatitude, purity of heart, is at work in the persons who seek peace. The lack of peace in a relationship is typically the consequences of one or both persons failing to love their neighbor as they should. This results in distrust and often issues in retalitory acts which heighten conflict.

In a few verses Jesus will return to this subject and tell his disciples that they should be initiators of the peace making process. Ideally, when one goes to another and declares that being a peace with him/her is of utmost importance, the other will respond by taking steps toward reconciliation.

The promise here is that peacemakers will be called sons of God. Does this refer to the idea that we are acting with the same goals and purposes of God himself, thus be are seen a “chips off the old block”?

Pure in Heart. Matt. 5:6

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

In the psychology of the Hebrews the heart was the center, or the core being of a person. It is here that the “will” of a person resides. A pure heart would be one that willed what God wills. And this willing would apply to all levels of life–personal, family, community, church, vocation, nation, environment and the world.

The goal of the Christian life is to know and do the will of God. God’s will impacts each person both generally and specifically. This is to say that God wills every human person to trust and obey him. But he also has a specific will for how Gary Farley trusts and obeys him.

God has a will for each of us which is usually termed a “calling”, or a vocational role. And within the expression of this calling he will have a will for tasks that we assume and for how we perform those tasks. Our analysis should also include the factor of timing. Similar observation might be made concerning family, church life, and social and political life.

The central point here is that we are expected by God to perform each of these roles and tasks with a pure heart. Later Matthew will share a story about the mother of James and John requesting positions for her sons. (Mt. 20:20f.)The response of Jesus throws light on the current topic. We will return to it later. But for now let me observe that Jesus is telling us that in whatever roles or positions we are playing in life that we must act with purity. This is to say that our will should be God’s will for us in this case.

The promise that come with this says to me that I will see God working in me and through my roles and positions as I perform them with a pure heart. Further, one day I will see God face to face and will be able to rejoice for being “a good and faithful servant.”

Perhaps, I should also say a word about an “impure” heart. This would exist when I try to manipulate God to support my will, or when I would from what I desire, not what God wills.