Tuesday, 15 February 2011

True Happiness?

I've been pondering the beatitudes recently and what they mean.

Last night I watched The World's Worst Place to be Gay. You can watch at on this link or read about it here.

It was a shocking programme and revealed deep hatred and paranoia by many in Uganda towards homosexuals. The propaganda and blatant lies circulated by preachers, the media and government simply stir up the country into a frenzy of fear and hatred towards people who are gay.

I then thought about Jesus' words now commonly known as the beatitudes:

'Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'

In the Greek the word 'blessed' can literally be translated as 'happy'.

I do not think Jesus is listing a set of virtues here or giving us a model of how we should live our lives as Christians. I do not think Jesus is telling us that this is how we should be and then we will be blessed or happy.

I think what Jesus is saying here is that those who mourn or in poverty, and by that I mean material poverty which is what I think Jesus is talking about here, these people will be blessed by God.

I believe Jesus is saying that God is with these people. I believe Jesus is saying that God is especially with such people; the meek, poor, mournful, peacemakers, merciful, those thirsty for what is right, the pure in heart and persecuted.

I believe Jesus is talking here about his own mission to especially be with such people. He came to people such as these in order to bless them and reveal to them the goal and purpose of life; to be in relationship and to know the living God.

And this is what real happiness is.

And the church is called to continue in this mission to go to such people and seek to be a blessing to them. The church is called to continue in Jesus' mission to subvert what the world deems as 'happiness' and 'fulfilled living' and to show another way, a better way. That life has a goal, and that goal is to know God.

Which brings me back to Uganda.

Those men and woman who have been driven out of their homes and towns, who have been abused, persecuted, tortured and humiliated because of their sexuality, are the people who the church is called to go to and weep with, comfort, help, support and love.

The venom coming out of the Ugandan church is not from God. Their actions are not of Jesus. And I think God is disgusted with them. Yet I am sure there are still followers of Jesus in that country who will and are going to those gay people who have been so appallingly treated and be a blessing to them and to simply love them.

At least I hope there is.


Tony Mayes said...

Interesting Joe, I would go for a different interpretation of things like poor in spirit and mourn.

I Think Jesus is talking about kingdom values here. Recognition of our poverty in relationship to him, mourning our distance from him ...
being persecuted because of our following him. There are echoes of this in Psalm 63 as David reflects on things there.

Recognition of our state should cause as to want seek Jesus the more and wrestle as you are, with the big issues and how we are to respond to them.

I agree that we are called to reach out to all and hatred is a strong emotion don't forget though persecution comes in many forms and TV is very choosy in what is shows and to whose agenda it is working.

Surely our mission is to assist in bringing God's kingdom to earth as it is in heaven, sometimes that means having to point stuff out that is incompatible in both our and others lifestyles with kingdom values.

Very thought provoking - keep it up

Joe Haward said...

I agree mate that we all called bring the kingdom here and that should mean our values and actions subvert the norm and turn everything upside down. But when preacher and government are calling for gay people to be arrested and even killed because of their sexuality then we are not talking about God's kingdom here, we are dealing with something else entirely.

In terms of the interpretation, yours is the one that I hear most often, but I'm really not convinced! We are in danger of spiritually interpreting passages that are much more than that. So we have some kind of dualism. And we also put an evangelical spin on it! I really don't think this is a lust of virtues. I think those who mourn are those who mourn! Not some spiritual lament, but pain and weeping that God will comfort. And it is these people that God is especially with.

Compare Matthew 5 and Luke 4. Here is Jesus' manifesto. And it also shows how God is at work in the lives of people outside the church.

Joe Haward said...

*not a list of virtues I was meant to write, not 'lust of virtues'! Not even sure what a lust of virtues is!?!*

Cameron Thorp said...

Good thoughts. My girlfriend just came back from spending a month in Uganda. She visited churches etc - hearing sermons each time. It was sad to hear of the kind of stuff that was being preached. A very legalistic, sin focused message. It saddened me to hear this.

Regarding the hatred of homosexuals in Uganda. This is fueled a lot by many conservative anti-homosexual American Christian who have along with some humanitarian work spread there ideals regarding homosexuals. Its sad and does not belong in God's revolutionary kingdom on earth.

Liked your thoughts..

Check out my blog too if you like. Its called The Kingdom Post.


Joe Haward said...

Thanks Cameron.

Sad to hear that. It seems that the powerful are once again controlling things and the abused and voiceless are suffering...I'm sure Jesus had something to say about that.

Like your blog by the way.

Tony Mayes said...

I like the common interpretation. A few years back I spent some time considering this passage in the light of liberation (in many senses) and have no doubt that God works in people who don't believe. I stayed with the popular interpretation but, and it is a big BUT ...

If Jesus is telling us where our focus should be in this passage - on him and the things of God, recognising how far it from it we all are, then verses like "love your neighbour" give context.

If we love Christ, we should want to obey him, loving our neighbour must be regardless of how they stack up against our codes and rules and certainly could not include killing them because we dont agree with life-style, views, or behaviour.

Thats just plain old fashion bigotry and prejudice.

But we can agree to differ I think.