When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for.
"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
Over the last couple of days I have been thinking about this passage a bit. N.T. Wright and Michael Bird in their book, The New Testament In Its World, argue that the beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom work. It strikes me that as we start to seek living this agenda out we will likely find ourselves at one time or another practicing all of this.
Each of us will likely jump into the fray at different points. Some of us come into this at the beginning of the agenda, at the end of our rope. Some of us might pop in at the middle and others may experience persecution right from jump street. Where ever we find ourselves, we must recognize that living this way is our agenda as followers of Jesus.
The longer I try to become more like Christ, the more attracted I am to people who live this way. I find them to be refreshing and life-giving.
Most particularly I am finding that I want to be around the peace-makers. Peterson says it like this, "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.” Thinking about peace-making this way is so beautiful to me. The idea of teaching people to cooperate as opposed to competing feels subversive in our world today. There are so many stories about leaders in our government who refuse to find middle ground positions of cooperation because they can’t look like they are capitulating to the “other side.” As a result, good policies don’t get done on behalf of our nation. I also think about the disunity in the body of Christ and the schisms and divisions that have happened over the years because people were unwilling to pursue peace-making.
Over the last few years I am growing less concerned about my theological tribe “being right.” I am more concerned with those of who claim to follow Jesus practicing this kingdom agenda that we find in the opening lines of Matthew 5. Again, I’m pretty wrapped up in this idea of peace-making as I write this. What would it look like if the Christians of our world steeled themselves toward making peace? How would our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, and nation changed if there was a collective effort toward teaching people to cooperate with one another?
I guess, at the end of the day what I long for is people to love their neighbor and their enemy as themselves.