If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
For the next few weeks, we’re going to discuss the attitudes of being, more commonly known as the Beattitudes, which Jesus discusses in Matthew 5 in His Sermon on the Mount. We will take a look at each of the Beattitudes separately, week by week.
Since these are attitudes of being, let’s consider the verb “to be” for a moment. Among the definitions at www.merriam-webster.com are these:
Ø to have identity with
Ø to have a special qualification or characterization
Ø to belong to a class of
None of these definitions involve trying to become something. They don’t imply working to achieve or attain a goal.
If we have identity with a particular attitude, that means we have that attitude resident within us, not that we attempt to emulate that attitude. To have a special qualification or characterization is for it to be a part of our nature. It’s not something we do or try to do; it’s something people see in us as a natural part of us. Likewise, to belong to a class of doesn’t mean to try to join; it means we are a part of it.
We either have these attitudes Jesus discusses, or we don’t. We can’t act like we have them or strain ourselves to try to attain them. These are not external things. They are part of our inner nature.
Does this mean that if I wasn’t born with these attitudes in place in me I can never have them? I’m just out of luck and may as well forget it? Not at all.
There’s a lot of truth to the old saying a tiger cannot change his stripes. What the saying omits, however, is that God can. I cannot make myself be meek or poor in spirit or have any of these other characteristics, but God can put them in me. My job is to confess to Him that I’m not meek or not poor in spirit or whatever and ask Him to make me that way. And then to SUBMIT to Him and stay out of His way.
As a sinner, I wasn’t born Godly or loving. I was born self-centered and selfish. That is the nature of the human species. I cannot make myself loving or Godly, but if I confess to God that I’m not and ask Him to change me and make me that way, He can. He can work inside me and make what He wants of me if I will place myself in submission to Him and stay out of His way.
This is part of what John meant in 1John 1:9, when he said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” [Emphasis mine]. If something in my nature is sinful—meaning that it’s not as God would have it to be—He takes the job of changing it upon Himself when I confess it to Him.
What I can’t change, He can. Let’s bear that in mind as we pursue our examination of the Beattitudes.
Another thing we must recognize about our subject is that these attitudes are progressive. By that, I mean that the first one must be established within my nature before the second one. Each of these attitudes is built upon the foundation of those which come before it.
Realizing that, I can use the Beattitudes as a self-examination of my growth as a Christian. Do I have these attitudes but not those? Do I recognize this one within myself which didn’t use to be there? This lets me know how I’m doing in my Christian life.
What do you think so far? I hope this discussion has been meaningful to you and that you’ll be back next week to examine the concept of “poor in spirit.” I’d also love to hear your comments.
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his non-fiction Web Wisdom: Inspiration from the Inbox and starting his new fiction work—a series of novellas set during the period from 1860 to 1880.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @davidnwalkertx