What does it cost us to follow the way of the Beatitudes? In this life that Christ has set before us, what can we expect?
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Poverty is measured in different ways. not only money. It is not a lack of anything in particular that makes you poor in spirit, but the lack that you suffer as a disciple. If you follow Christ, you will lack some of the things of the world. Power, security, possessions and money, are all sacrificed in one way or another. By placing money in the offering plate, you choose to be that much poorer for the sake of the Gospel. In the eyes of the world, a person who sacrifices much for Christianity is considered stupid and naďve. “What a hopeless loser!” they might say about you. But you do not hope in you. There is another who is your hope.
Still, it hurts to be seen this way. Earthly greatness will almost certainly elude you, or if you become great, you will act as if you are not. The way of some Christians seems to defy this rule. They make a big name for themselves, like the preachers who command a large following. But you follow someone else. Your treasure is a secret one, that worldly eyes cannot see. The glory of the kingdom of heaven is yours, delivered by the price of the Cross for you. There the most despised, poorest Man of all died, although it turned out that He was not poor after all. He seemed to own nothing and have no home and was dependent on the charity of others. Yet in the end, all authority in heaven and on earth was His, and a kingdom was won by His Blood.
You are that kingdom, although it does not look like it. Like Christ whom you follow, you must live a life of poverty here below until the heavenly riches are revealed.
Being a follower of Christ will cost you a toll of sadness. You will mourn, indeed, you likely mourn already. You feel grief at the plight of the world, and the multitudes for whom Christ died who are not turning to Him for life. Your heart must be pierced by the legion of injustices perpetrated by this wicked race. You must also mourn for the losses you must suffer as a follower of Christ. You must tread a painful path because you are a stranger on this earth.
You forgive and show mercy and peace to others, even when you could have exacted revenge. You could have some satisfaction out of getting back at them, or some compensation, or at least feel superior that you are more righteous than they because you know what they did. Instead, You bear with the weaknesses of others, treat them as equals, hide their shortcomings and sins, and even shed tears because some cruelty must strike you at times.
Instead of vengeance, you receive humiliation. Instead of superiority, you get distress and pain. You lower yourself with the down-trodden. How could you not, when your Master lowered Himself to your place, to suffer your shame and guilt? So you show mercy to those who do not deserve it. If they deserved it, it would not be mercy. As you have received, you pass on to others.
So you have received mercy in Christ, and you will receive mercy in eternity, but now you are sometimes denied it by your fellow man. You lower yourself, and others often kick you when you are down. This is not fair, yet you do it because you live in the image of Christ, who was willing to receive the blows our guilt deserves. Mercy will come to you, the final mercy and vindication of the resurrection and the revelation of the glory of the sons of God. Then all you have been denied will be restored.
You will inherit the earth - the whole earth, and not this sin-ravaged version of it. You will receive the perfect earth, full of untainted beauty, deathless, without any fear. You hope for that earth even as you toil through this one, its poor shadow. You do not own this one. Perhaps a small corner of it is yours, but in Christ this is not your reward. Your reward is far better than the best you can get here. So you treat these things as temporary, as only gifts for you to enjoy the Father’s love in His first article blessings. You also, as a follower of Christ, look to use your blessings to serve your neighbor.
You also hunger and thirst for righteousness. You give up the right to brag or take glory for your selfless deeds. If you did, they would not be selfless. You hunger and thirst for someone else’s righteousness, He who gives it away freely to you. You also hunger and thirst to be more righteous in this life, because you are constantly trying yet failing, seeing the lack in you. If not, then you would feel full and satisfied, which is to feel righteous in yourself. But that is not what followers of Christ feel.
This can mean avoiding the praise of the world. This means the humility of repentance. These are painful costs to pay to follow Christ.
Hungering for righteousness is the only way that leads to a pure heart. When you see that your heart is not pure in itself, and confess the same to God, only to such a person does He give the new, clean heart in Christ. With His Word and Spirit, He gives new impulses for good deeds that seek no praise. He gives a desire to put down the self and to raise up others. But always, He gives the true confession of abandoning one’s own purity and calling it garbage because only the purity Christ gives is true.
Another cost of following Christ is meekness and peacemaking. The meek do not demand their own rights, and so the world tramples on them. We are told to be assertive or we will never amount to anything. But we follow the innocent One who gave up all rights, who was treated as a criminal. He went up to suffering and death, who deserved not the tiniest pin prick.
He suffered the loss of His rights because He was making peace. In suffering and yielding for the sake of others, He won peace. So do we. The peace we make is not by overcoming others, but by letting ourselves be overcome. So our lives, to all outward appearances do not look like peace, even as the Passion of Christ did not look like peace. We must wait to receive the fullness of peace until the last day when our Prince of Peace shows Himself.
Until then, we suffer slander, hate, and persecution. This is a high cost. The world is offended at us. The kingdom of heaven must suffer at the hands of the kingdoms of this world. Their malice is becoming more obvious, day by day.
They will speak evil against you falsely. If you have not heard them, it is only because they have done it behind your back.
They may do far worse. You bear the Name they hate. That Name says, “Believe on Me and be saved, or else be damned forever.” When you speak in that Name, you will bear suffering for His sake.
But we do not abandon that Name. No, for He has not abandoned us. Why not suffer for the One who suffered far more for us unworthy ones? He has purchased a new earth for us, and a kingdom, and mercy, and peace. In the end, He shall show us the face of God in the splendor of the kingdom of glory. Why would we throw away these infinite, eternal blessings because of temporary pains and humiliation we suffer here below?
That is what the Beatitudes are – blessings. Christ our dear Lord has blessed us His people and made us His saints forever. Yet the blessings of our Lord are strange to our earthly minds. His blessings look at first like curses. But no, they are the true blessings which can only come when we carry our cross. For we follow the original Cross Bearer.
Let us follow Him to the end, by God’s grace. Amen.
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