More Than Nice Words

It was a pretty big deal to start dating someone when I was in bible school. Probably still is. I think the particular geography of campus magnifies things. It was a campus housing 300+ students that had been designed to hold 150. Northern Alberta gifts its residents with a long winter, so the many students like us who didn’t own their own car were stuck on a small campus in a small prairie town without much else to do but spy on each other.

I remember when Tabitha and I started dating. It seemed like one of these big deals. So we told a few people, like family. My future father-in-law’s light-hearted query sticks with me: “So you’re dating. What was your first date like?” We hadn’t had one. We had been so busy updating our relationship status, we hadn’t bothered to go on a date yet. It was just nice words at this point. But Valentine’s Day was soon to be upon us and a romantic evening at Walmart and McDonald’s was in our future. But that’s another story.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:10

I mentioned last post that the Sermon on the Mount is a difficult series of teachings. The Beatitudes are probably the prime example. On the surface, poetic devices like couplets and the repeated use of ‘blessed’ lull us into a false sense of ease. It sounds so… nice.

But going deeper, actually taking these words seriously, reveals something antithetical to human nature. These are not words to paint on a pleasing picture in your living room; they are here to turn your entire living upside down. I don’t want to be poor in spirit or meek or persecuted. I want to be strong to the point of pride; I want to be holding the whip, not receiving it.

Not only am I naturally opposed to this, but I even have a hard time imagining a life lived this way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer–pastor, teacher and collaborator against the Third Reich– points us clearly to its clear application in his book, The Cost Of Discipleship:

“Having reached the end of the beatitudes, we naturally ask if there is any place of this earth for the community which they describe. Clearly, there is one place, and only one, and that is where the poorest, meekest, and most sorely tried of all men is to be found – on the cross at Golgotha. The fellowship of the beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all. From the cross there comes the call ‘blessed, blessed.’” (113-114).

Jesus is not here upholding a detached ideal. He is revealing His way of being in the world. This is the explanation for His way of living and the way that He calls each of us to follow. By His grace and by His Spirit, that which we might abhor, shun or just fail to imagine, becomes possible and a new life for those of us who follow Him.

Lord, I will follow you. Not for the ease of the path or its alignment with my own ideals. But because it is the way of life.

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