Saturday, August 6, 2016

Beatiful Reflections

Before I get into what I actually want to write about: yes, I do know how to spell "Beautiful." The title is a pun because I'm writing about the Beatitudes. So I won't apologize for bad spelling, but maybe I will apologize for my sense of humor.

Anyway, the other day in church someone was giving a talk on the Beatitudes. I had some thoughts during the talk that I enjoyed writing down, and I thought I'd put them up here just in case they similarly delight someone else.

Matthew, Chapter 5.

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit:

If you consider yourself poor, it means you recognize a lack of something. Those who are poor in spirit recognize that they don't have everything they need spiritually, and are willing to accept God's offerings of mercy, grace, and love. Those who consider themselves rich in spirit, or well-enough-off in spirit, might reject these gifts even though they really do need them.

4. Blessed are they that mourn:

A couple of months ago, I was having a tough time. I "bravely" trooped through it for a couple of weeks without complaints, but finally one day I broke and laid it all out on the table before God. I said a very whiny and complaining prayer and, strangely, felt better. For weeks I couldn't figure out why complaining to God made me feel better, but eventually I decided that I felt better because I had been honest with myself and God instead of hiding my emotions or trying to pretend I felt differently than I did.

Mourning is honestly acknowledging your emotions. Mourning is honoring and accepting the way you feel, without trying to stuff your feelings down and pretend you don't have them (to follow this thought in another direction, I think that escapist behaviors like doing drugs, drinking alcohol, or viewing pornography (or other, milder but still damaging escapist behaviors like spending hours on Facebook), are often a way of stuffing down our feelings and making them "go away." Honestly acknowledging our feelings is a lot harder than stuffing them down or medicating them away with drugs, alcohol, or pornography, but much better). So, when we allow ourselves to mourn, that self-honesty puts us in a place of truth where we are able to receive God's comfort. Escapism takes us away from truth and reality, away from God and His love.

5. Blessed are the meek:

The world right now is not very meek. People shoot each other; they find offense with each other everywhere imaginable; they end friendships because of dissenting political opinions. Being meek, on the other hand, is being gentle, forgiving, and benevolent. We need more meekness.

The blessing tied to being meek is "for they shall inherit the earth"--a pretty big blessing! Maybe this blessing is huge because we need something really monumental to help us decide to give up our pride. I'm a prideful person, and I frequently feel like nothing on earth matters as much as proving somebody wrong on Facebook; being right is, in those moments, the biggest good I can see. This promise allows me to step back and say, "wait, my pride isn't worth it. I want what God offers me--the whole world--more than I want to rant at this person."

6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:

This is a very encouraging scripture, because hungering and thirsting are feelings you have before you eat or drink; I'm neither hungering nor thirsting right now, immediately after eating dinner. So, I will be blessed for wanting righteousness, even if I don't actually have it yet. My desires to be good will let God bless me, not just my actual goodness.

7. Blessed are the merciful:

Mercy is a balm to your own soul. Anger, rancor, and hatred burn the soul of the one feeling them; mercy allows those feelings to be quickly healed and replaced with love. Love feels a whole lot better than hate.

Sometimes I feel like if I forgive someone then there will be some great cosmic imbalance; if somebody does something wrong, then they have to pay for it, and I have to keep track of that wrongness until the universe makes them pay. If I let go of what they did, the universe might lose track and they might never suffer as they should. Two things to remember here: first, God made the rules, and any infraction of the rules is really an offense towards God, not towards me. Thus, I can trust God to keep the great cosmic balance, to make sure no wrongs go unpunished. This knowledge lets me safely let go of my anger without worrying about the cosmic balance. Second, Jesus Christ took upon himself the responsibility for, and the punishment for, every sin that has been or will be committed. He paid the price. He ensured the great cosmic balance. He bought mercy with His blood. So, Christ not only extends me mercy, He also gives me the reason why I can offer mercy to others.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

When Adam fell, he was taken out of God's presence and could no longer see Him. God gave him the Gospel, whose ordinances purify our hearts and allow us to reenter God's presence, to see Him again. The purpose of God's Church is to be a framework for receiving these ordinances, so that we can see Him again.

9. Blessed are the peacemakers:

Peacemaking is often about letting something go. It is about leaving a witty, biting comment unsaid; it is valuing unity over being right or being better than someone else. There is a lot of meekness and mercy in peacemaking.

10. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:

When we are put in the way of emotional or physical harm for Christ's sake, we feel some of the pain He felt in Gethsemane and Golgotha. Feeling that pain allows us to grow closer to Him, until we can also feel the cleansing, renewal, and new life of the atonement and resurrection.

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