What a series OVERLOOK has been studying the Sermon on the Mount.
A few weeks back, Pastor Amanda and Troy brought us “Beats (Beatitudes) by J (Jesus) Pt. 2”. There is a lot to sit with in the beatitudes in general but that week was focusing on three main tenets as I understood them: Mercy, Purity of Heart and Peacemaking…now here is the hard part…no matter what. Here’s my reflections as I process this message.
This all boils down to our authority as followers of Jesus to practice these principles in all of our affairs. That word authority is maligned to mean “power over” when really Jesus teaches us that power is given to us as a “power to…”. Power to forgive, power to exercise Mercy based on the recognition of the mercy we have received. Power is ours even to celebrate while people are literally kicking us when we are already unable to walk. THAT is true spiritual authority. Snake handling and religious “cults of personality” are a poor substitute for that kind of application of power. They are also sadly all too common in every spiritual path where spiritual power is manifestly present without community checks and balances. The western church is not alone on this one. Now that we’ve framed that…back to Mercy. When someone has been pounding on my reputation or my social standing or my business deals…how do I behave then? I need a reference for something I don’t have on this physical plane…a model for Mercy when I’m feeling legally or rightfully in a place of “judgement”.
Thank Jesus here for that model. If I’ve been given Mercy and my job is to pass it on before it gets stale from lack of use, like day old manna, then it doesn’t matter what others are doing around me or “to” me. My job is to freely give what I’ve been given. I can’t do that unless I have been empowered. Our Creator empowers us in these words to go and BE Mercy. I have failed so many times to do this exact thing in the moment when “I just can’t do it anymore” and I let loose with a tirade that feels great, wins the argument and utterly destroys the image and likeness of Jesus in my life right then and there. This is historically when I end up having the biggest audience of non-followers of Jesus watching and taking notice. My need for Mercy keeps me leaning into giving it even when I’m feeling short.
So that’s Mercy. Next time it’s Purity of Heart.
Purity of Heart is about making sure that my desires and beliefs about myself and the world are in line with my Creator’s intended purpose for my life. The point is not that there is only ONE purpose for my life, but that I have purpose in my being so that ALL of my choices can reflect that purpose and bring me closer to my Creator’s original blueprint for my skills and passions and joys. When I fail to ask the Creator for what I want and need because “I just can’t trust a God that…” (fill in the blank), I end up alone. at the deep end of the pool, high up on the diving platform, late at night hoping someone won’t see my belly flop. It never hurts any less just because no one is watching. The heart is not only the center of our beliefs about ourselves, God and the world around us. Science also has shown that there is an electro-magnetic field around the heart that can be measured well outside the human body.
When we are in alignment with the creator of our gifts, we can ask from a place of a ‘clean heart’ as King David says. Anything not purity can be felt immediately by those around us because the heart is actually ‘broadcasting’ our true intentions or beliefs! Purity in Heart means that I want for my life and my gifts to be unpacked by the creator and giver of the gifts. Purity in Heart means I ask what the highest application of my skills could be for the quiet growth of a better world. If it’s about me and my genius that probably isn’t happening based on my experience. The Kingdom of Heaven starts its work inside of me and until I can rest with God in my Heart, I will be spinning webs of useless “genius” that never have the full potency and purpose for which they were designed. Without Purity of Heart, I will not see God in my daily actions and neither will anyone else...no matter how ‘good’ I make it look. And that brings us to Peacemakers...but wait, I thought this was about Persecution and being busted on for being God’s chosen ones and how blessed we are above others for all of it.
And…This is where I fall off the horse every time. I actually had to sit through two sermons this Sunday to make sure I heard this one right. See if we are peacemakers when people are sweet back to us when we are sweet first, or when there is no real sense of mayhem about to break out…well, that isn’t really that very “Jesus-ly”. Peacemaking when we are being persecuted or treated un-justly is totally what this is about. If people are talking a lot of smack about me because I am merciless, (I struggle sometimes with my two favorite defects of character—my two best friends “Smug” and “Judgey”), or because I am all about my own comfort (sometimes I AM) or because I am known for “not peace but a sword” in defense of the gospel (I’m usually just known for a sharp tongue which is the worst) then they’re simply stating fact. It doesn’t matter if I have a heart full of Jesus if everywhere I go I leave a bad taste in people’s mouths is my point here. We are recognizable as God’s kids by the peace we leave behind us where there used to be conflict.
IF, however, people are talking crazy piles of fertilizer about me while I was actually sitting alone in my room crying out to the Creator about a perceived injustice, and begging for Love to give my “enemies” in return (I’ve also done a lot of this as well)… THEN there is a real blessing there. Especially when it doesn’t feel like it. When I overlook other people’s incorrect perceptions of me and/or their human frailty that inconveniently mirrors my own room for improvement, I become a peacemaker while being ‘persecuted’. THEN and only then will people feel Jesus when they come into contact with me in daily life. The felt sense of peace is priceless in this day and age. Let’s be makers of THAT shall we?! This is the kind of peacemaking we are called to. Finding places for opportunity to balance out the situation. Where there is strife, balance requires peace. Spiritual authority is never about the heat of ‘my spiritual authority’ at the expense of peace and balanced equality in the larger church community. Spiritual authority is given to all of us to restore balance and bring peace to any situation that is heated.
When I walk with Jesus I find Mercy, Purity of Heart and Peace in Persecution that I can begin to practice in my daily life where the stakes are real and every life counts.
Dopest ‘Beats by J’ message yet. Thanks Radius.