Blessed Are You When People Insult You (Matthew 5:11, 12)

I knew a man who was persecuted for his Christian faith.   His name was Pastor Mung. He worked with my missionary grandparents in northwestern China before the country fell to Mao’s Communists in 1948. Pastor Mung endured decades of harassment and prison. When he was well into his seventies, he planted a church in Xining, which has since grown to over 10,000 baptized members. Before he died, he left that congregation to start a satellite church at another location. It has over 1,000 members.   American Christians have difficulty appreciating the courage of Christians like Pastor Mung because we … Continue reading Blessed Are You When People Insult You (Matthew 5:11, 12)

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted Because of Righteousness (Matthew 5.10)

Editor’s note: This was originally written in late 2004.   The eyes of the world are on Ukraine.   On November 21, 2004 Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich squared off against opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko in a runoff election for the Ukrainian presidency. Yanukovich won, but Yuschenko’s supporters and international observers argued that the election was rife with ballot fraud and voter intimidation. Ukraine’s Supreme Court agreed and ordered a reprise of the election on December 26.   Attempting to steal an election was not the only crime committed. Prior to the election, someone—no doubt a Yanukovich partisan, possibly a member … Continue reading Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted Because of Righteousness (Matthew 5.10)

Wild Goose Chase

  When last we heard from Mark Batterson, he was chasing a lion down a pit on a snowy day. Now he’s chasing a wild goose. Evidently, there’s a lot of chasing going on in Mark’s neck of the hood.   Most of us think a wild goose chase is, as Mark puts it, “a purposeless endeavor without a defined destination.” Mark thinks otherwise. He notes that one of the Celtic Christian images of the Holy Spirit was An Geadh Glas, “the Wild Goose.” Chasing that Wild Goose is anything but a purposeless endeavor, even though we don’t know the … Continue reading Wild Goose Chase

For They Will Be Called Sons of God (Matthew 5.9)

  About twenty years ago, one of my father’s parishioners painted a portrait of him. For several weeks, each Monday morning, she came to his office, and he posed for her sitting very still, with his legs crossed and his hands folded across his lap. Although this woman was a professional artist, the portrait didn’t look much like my dad. It was impressionistic, not realistic.                                                                                            And yet, she captured the essence of my dad as he rested after a long weekend of pulpit ministry. Two things stand out especially: the contemplative look on my dad’s face, which he always … Continue reading For They Will Be Called Sons of God (Matthew 5.9)

Blessed Are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5.9), Part 2

What is peace, and how do we bring it to a warring world?   It seems to me that there are two basic approaches to answering these questions. The first approach revolves around absence and imposition. The second centers on presence and invitation. Let me explain what I mean by using a childhood experience as an illustration.   When I was in kindergarten, I liked to play with wooden building blocks. They were large (about one-foot cubed) and hollow. I enjoyed making an igloo-like fort out of them during recess. Unfortunately, the schoolyard bully liked to push them over on … Continue reading Blessed Are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5.9), Part 2

Blessed Are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5.9), Part 1

Since September 11, 2001, our nation has been at war. Upward of 150,000 troops are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they have suffered losses. In Iraq, over 4,000 servicemen have died, and far more have been injured. While it can be argued that our forces—armed and diplomatic—are making progress defeating our enemies and helping our friends, many battles lay ahead of them, and the final outcome of the war is uncertain.   I think of this situation when I reflect on Jesus’ seventh beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5.9). A … Continue reading Blessed Are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5.9), Part 1

For They Will See God (Matthew 5.8)

The ultimate goal of the Christian life is to see God face to face.   Christian theologians call this sight of God the “beatific vision,” which the Catholic Encyclopedia defines as following: “The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called ‘vision’ to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed ‘beatific.’”   Notice several things about this definition. First, … Continue reading For They Will See God (Matthew 5.8)

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart (Matthew 5.8)

“Purity of heart,” wrote Soren Kierkegaard, “is to will one thing.”   I thought of that quote while watching triathletes compete in this past summer’s Olympic games. Each competitor swam nine-tenths of a mile, biked 24.8 miles, then ran 6.2 miles. (The Ironman Triathlete is far worse: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and at 26-mile marathon.) The mental toughness needed to compete in, let alone complete, such a race is nearly impossible for a confirmed couch potato such as myself to ponder. When you factor in the years of arduous, single-minded training that had prepared the athletes for … Continue reading Blessed Are the Pure in Heart (Matthew 5.8)

For They Will Be Shown Mercy (Matthew 5.7)

What does it mean to be merciful? And what is the connection between being merciful and being shown mercy? Both questions arise from the fifth beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5.7). Let’s look at each in turn.   First, what does it mean to be merciful? As I suggested in yesterday’s devotional, mercy stands opposite meritocracy. It means giving something good when something bad is deserved.   In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18.21–35), the servant of the king deserved to be sold into slavery because of his great debt. (Remember, … Continue reading For They Will Be Shown Mercy (Matthew 5.7)

Blessed Are the Merciful (Matthew 5:7)

We Americans live in a meritocratic society, and in many ways this is a good thing.   Fifty years ago, the laws of several states segregated children into allegedly “separate, but equal” schools. (Definitely separate, hardly equal!) America’s Ivy League universities accepted “legacy” students, whose parents had attended before them, but put strict quotas on the number of incoming Jewish students. And Southern lunch counters were off limits to paying customers, at least if they were black.   Today, of course, those legal barriers to equality have been removed. The law judges people on the basis of “the content of … Continue reading Blessed Are the Merciful (Matthew 5:7)