Blessed are the Merciful

Beatitudes, Justice, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth

As you look at the four portraits painted by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the mercy of Jesus is prominent. Jesus is merciful to sinners. He’s merciful to tax collectors. He’s merciful to prostitutes. The only people to whom Jesus was not merciful were those who were unmerciful.

In my last blog entry I broke down the 4th Beatitude.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

As I pointed out, “righteousness” might be better translated as either the word “justice” or “right-ness.” So the verse can be understood this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be made right, for they shall be satisfied.

Now, let’s combine the 4th and 5th Beatitudes and look at them together.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be made right, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

When you put these two Beatitudes together, you get a deliberate echo of Micah 6:8, which is the summary of the prophetic tradition:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

So they go together. And they have to go together. Because if you do not hold the 4th and 5th Beatitude together in tension, things go awry.

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for [Righteousness]

Beatitudes, Justice, Kingdom of God, Suffering

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

Only one Greek word per blog post. That’s a strict law that cannot be violated. And the one Greek word for the day is dikaiosuné.

It is the word in the Greek language translated as both “righteousness” and “justice.” The English language is sort of an anomaly where we take “righteousness” and “justice” and we turn them into two different concepts. Two separate words. In most languages, they’re the same word.

Now, there is a problem with the word “righteousness.” It’s a great word. But the word “righteousness” can collapse into the world of personal, private spirituality. If you say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” here’s how we hear that: “Blessed are those who really, really want to be spiritual, …for they shall be really, really spiritual.”

That’s not at all what it’s saying. And the way we recover what is being said here is to use the word “justice” or, better yet, “right-ness.” “Justice” or “right-ness” sounds different in your ears than “righteousness.”

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

Beatitudes, Grief, Kingdom of God, Suffering

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

We tend to have little affinity for suffering. We wish to avoid it at all costs, wishing to stay within the safe sanctuary of our own contentment. And that is problematic. A life of contentment without suffering will almost certainly be a shallow life.

Suffering, when we allow it to do its work, broadens our capacity for compassion. “Compassion” comes from a Latin word that means “shared suffering.” If you’ve never had suffering it’s hard to share it with someone else. You don’t relate. You don’t understand.

So instead of weeping with those who weep, we want to cheer them up. Not for their sake, but for our sake. Their grief, their sorrow, their pain, their suffering makes us uncomfortable. And so we come alongside them to cheer them up, not for their sake, but because, “Come on, man. You’re bumming me out here. You’re spoiling the mood. I’m uncomfortable. I’m not used to being around people who are acting like this. Get happy for me, will you please?”

And yet, that’s not what the Scriptures teach us to do. Paul says in Romans, “Weep with those who weep.” “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” We want to rejoice with those who rejoice, and rejoice with those who weep.