Over the last eight weeks I have been doing a series of blog posts on each of the Beatitudes. Today I just want to think through what living the Beatitudes, this core teaching of Jesus’s, means. In this series I have relied on Jim Forest’s image of the Beatitudes as a ladder. He describes our journey in Christ as climbing a ladder, giving ourselves over to Christ, one step, one rung at a time. We go from our belief in the provenance of God and our need for Him to the actually living each and every principle of His teaching. We go from acknowledging our own poverty in the face of God’s knowledge and love of us to being willing to endure anything that we might suffer in doing His work.
It is not our beliefs that take us so far up the ladder. It is our willingness to go along with anything that the Lord says to us or puts in our way that takes us so far. It is our prayers for healing all that stands between us and the Lord—all our anger and fear, our pain and suffering, our egocentricity and attachment to the world’s view. Only God can accomplish in us what Christ has set out as our journey into the kingdom of God; we are way too close to the subject—ourselves—to be able to see clearly how to untangle all these attachments and fulfill Jesus’s desires for us to be true to our God-created selves. And to our Lord.
As we climb this ladder, as we journey with Christ, He will highlight for us what in our lives needs to be changed. And, as our prayers about all that stands between us and God begin to take hold, we can feel the changes happening in our attitudes and in our willingness to follow Jesus more freely. For God will heal and transform us from the inside out so that, like the encounter with Christ that Paul had on the road to Damascus, we can become more and more Christ’s servant in this world.
As we travel this road, it will no longer be enough to believe in Christ and God and the Holy Spirit. That belief must be expressed in our lives in what we do and say, in our attitudes and in our actions. These changes that God provides us reveal more and more resistance and unwillingness in us to change and adapt to God’s ways, so we pray even more for His healing and grace and transformation, so that we can truly align ourselves with His purpose for our lives, the way He created us to be. As we experience the more superficial changes at first, God implants in us the deeper desires of our hearts and souls—the desire to be humble, just one of God’s community of servants, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful in all that we do, to be pure in heart and peacemakers, even to be persecuted for His name’s sake.
We are to just be love in this world to everyone we meet—no longer picking and choosing the ones we like. We are to be helping everyone we can, either through providing their physical needs or their spiritual ones. Our attitudes are to be consistent with our actions or they have to go, too. We are to be merciful to everyone. We are to be making peace wherever we go. And to be pure in heart—that is filled with love and forgiveness and mercy and justice—to love as God loves.
This process takes a lifetime from whenever we give our lives over to Christ. It’s not that we are to be perfect in following the letter of the law, but we are to be totally dedicated to God, to the spirit of His law, and all that He wants for us and for us to do. We are to love God with all of ourselves and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28). So we are to forgive ourselves and others for all that we have done wrong, and we are to show God’s love and forgiveness wherever we are. We will not be perfect, at least in this lifetime, but we are journeying towards that perfection, that total dedication to the Lord in all that we do.
And who do we listen to while traveling this journey in Christ? Only to Christ himself. He will call us to the purpose that He has had for us since we were created. He will walk with us and show us the way to fulfilling that purpose. He will love and support us in all that we do for Him. And He will be there, present in everything that happens to us. As we travel this road with Him, we will grow in love and dedication and in our ability to hear and to know His voice, so that He is always the one we turn to as we leave all the cares of this world behind. We may live in this world, with our jobs and our friends and families, our leisure activities and our purpose most of all, and yet be in this world, but not of this world. Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I listening for God’s “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) throughout my days? Do I know how to still my mind so that I can hear God’s voice inside me? Where on this ladder of the Beatitudes do I think I am? Can I set aside my judgment of myself in order to find God’s love and forgiveness of me? Can I love and forgive myself for all that I am? Can I do the same for other people that the Lord puts on my path? How committed am I to serving the Lord as He asks me to?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are in touch with Him throughout our days. May we serve the Lord in joy and gratitude for all things. May we live in His peace.
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 Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes, (Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 1999)