6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
This word is obvious and easy and almost unheard of in this generation. Who hungers and thirsts for righteousness? For the outfit, the car, the house, the friends, the whatever, maybe, but righteousness? I mean, good grief Charlie Brown, these days we have thousands of people telling us and millions of people believing that morality (ethics) are relative and only matters of opinion. People these days don’t even know what righteousness is!
This is God’s way of telling us that we need to get our heads screwed on right. Be renewed in the renewing of our minds (Paul again). Get our focus on what is important and what really matters in life. What is good, right and true? Meditate on these things day and night. How many of us can claim with David, “surly goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life?” Sure, David messed up big time, more than once, but he was a man after God’s own heart. That is what God is telling us here. God wants people after his own heart. This is the life that gains God’s seal of approval.
Here is a word that will make some mad for sure: God does not care one whit about your money. God cares about your life in all that you say and do. Is all that you are guided and driven by a genuine hunger and thirst for righteousness? God is saying it should be.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Mercy is, I believe, not well understood because it comes in three forms.
1. Mercy, as I believe most people think of it, generally requires a precondition: forgiveness. God is telling us here that we are to show mercy, plain and simple. We are to be a merciful people. In this sense, God is saying we are to be a forgiving people. Mercy happens when we are in a position of power or authority, real or perceived, and we CHOOSE to forgive. We do not hold grudges. We resist the temptation to get even. When we are in a position to get our revenge and we choose to forgive, we are merciful. This is hard, yes. But it is the kind of people God wants us to be. When someone makes a mistake, as we all do, we are not to hold it against them.
2. Then, many people understand Mercy in relation to justice. Forgiveness plays a part in this understanding as well, but here wisdom says forgive, but don’t forget. Here, we are generally talking about more than just mistakes. Letting a murderer or drug pusher or thief go free is not merciful. It is stupid. It certainly is not merciful to the victims or future victims.
This form of mercy, mingled with justice, caused the western world to come up with ideas like innocent until proven guilty and proscriptions against cruel and unusual punishment. We can certainly do more in terms of truly trying to rehabilitate people, but at the same time, we perhaps need to get back to the justice part in certain courts. Sorry. Just something to think about.
3. Then there is what I consider the most powerful form of mercy. It is the man with the dead car, standing there with jumper cables just waiting and hoping someone will stop and let him jump-start his car. Forgiveness may not honestly be part of this equation, but rather kindness, and I recall a powerful presentation of this idea in the movie Ben-Hur.
Near the beginning, Ben-Hur is condemned to slavery. He is dragged off to serve in a galley but stumbles on the road. He is dying of thirst, and a man comes up to give him a cup of water. It is not said outright, but it is clear the man is Jesus. Near the end, again not said outright, a man is carrying his own cross and stumbles. Ben-Hur is right there to offer a cup of water and the look on his face when he realizes that this is the same man who once helped him is priceless.
This is mercy in its best and greatest form. It is kindness to strangers in the face of need. Yes, we are to be a forgiving people and always mingle mercy with justice. Just look at the ultimate act of mercy and justice which is the cross. But we are also to be a people of kindness, always there and ready to reach out to wherever there is need. This is all part of mercy in this world, and this is the kind of people God wants us to be.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
I Corinthians 13 is a good description of the pure in heart. Notice, Love stands at the center. This is not a promotion of innocence which for us is more than likely far too late. It is also not (necessarily) saying we need to become like children again (though of such is the kingdom made). Rather, it is a call to root out the impurities that clog our lives and so often cause us to stumble. So. at the risk of building a Pauline list:
It means we are to give up hate and anger in all their forms and give up fear, as the angels say. Whenever angels appear in Scripture, often their first word is, “Do not be afraid.” It means resisting evil, avoiding the obvious sins like lust and greed. We are what we eat means we become what we take inside. Consider what we get from the magazines, the news, from television, radio and the movies. We are inundated in this world with cruel and evil things and in knowing the details we are told to consider ourselves sophisticated. Those not in the know are to be called rubes and buffoons. I say, repent of such things, which means turn around and go the other way or turn your back on such things. Take in what is right good and true instead. Spend time in God’s word. Spend time with God. Stay away from gossip, the slanderous and libelous words of the masses. Build people up in faith and do not tear others down.
There is much work for all of us to do in this manner. But the fruits of the Spirit are these: Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentle-kindness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. A person filled to overflowing with these attributes is invariably pure in heart. This is how we are to be, and it won’t be easy.