The Beatitudes Inverted
The present Chapel Chat is an unusual one for me.
Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is one of the most well-known parts of Scripture, and is, for that very reason, apt to be overlooked. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt. The Beatitudes are a striking case in point, for they invert our whole ordinary way of looking at the world, and yet they have become so familiar to us that we seldom take in their meaning.
In my own reading of Matthew 5:1-11, I resolved upon a little exercise and inverted the blessings into curses. Where the text says “Blessed are the merciful,” I wrote down “Cursed are the unmerciful.” This naturally required a bit of interpretation, and I tried to write out my own versions colloquially, but I invite you to take this little journey with me and consider what these teachings might mean for us today.
1. Cursed are the proud. They are not members of God’s Kingdom.
2. Cursed are those who are happy in the present world system. They will not be happy in the world system that is coming.
3. Cursed are the go-getters, for they shall get nothing.
4. Cursed are those who are satisfied with their current level of righteousness. That’s as far as they’ll get, and it’s not that far.
5. Cursed are the unmerciful, for God will be unmerciful toward them.
6. Cursed are those with mixed motives. They will not see God present and active in their life.
7. Cursed are those who stir up fighting. They are not God’s children, but children of the Devil.
8. Cursed are those who get through this life without ever having had to suffer for doing right. They are not members of God’s Kingdom.
9. Cursed are those who get through this life without ever having to suffer for following Jesus. They are not members of God’s Kingdom either.
In looking at these Beatitudes, it’s difficult to avoid the impression that Jesus has condemned the whole of what frequently passes for “normality.” There is a great temptation at this point to defend our own conduct, or at least attack what we perceive to be the conduct of others in order to salvage the very popular belief that we are “no worse than the next person.” But, while such a solution may help us win verbal battles against our fellow man, it will prove of little avail when we stand alone in the presence of a holy God.
There is a tough pill here, for those who can swallow it. Jesus didn’t come to help us get along better in the world. He intends to transform us, and not necessarily in a way that most of us find immediately appealing.
God give us the grace, not to change ourselves, but to submit to the changes that he alone can make in us.
Pastor Chad LewisApril 1, 2019