Matthew 5:1-10 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus opened his longest recorded teaching (Matthew 5-7) with what most of us know as the Beatitudes. In my opinion, the theme of the entire lesson focuses on how a righteous person looks and acts. In my understanding, the Beatitudes are a composite view of a righteous person who looks to God to define what he/she is and how he/she acts. Jesus spoke of poverty of spirit, mourning, gentleness, hungering and thirsting to understand God’s ways, mercy, inner purity, making peace, and suffering. For many, these are not the attitudes of righteousness.

In my opinion, because we realized the enormous consequences of rejecting Jesus as God’s promised Messiah, we tried to make it as easy as possible to respond to Jesus. While there are many groups who used various concepts of grace to make it convenient to be Christians, we (the Churches of Christ) emphasized a lack of commitment. The commitment to service after baptism did not parallel the importance of being baptized. Thus baptism became the objective instead of the beginning.

We addressed two difficult problems: 1) sincere people who reach different conclusions, and 2) young children who understand basic facts but not long-term concepts (with a strong emphasis on “easy”). Thus, a lot of people became Christians, not because they were committed to a Savior, but because, “It is easy to be saved, and I do not want to go to Hell.” A personal observation: when serving God becomes demanding, many are not committed to the demands of being Jesus’ disciples. Thus, they often wonder, “Where is the ‘easy’?”

Jesus did not teach being righteous was easy. He taught that with God’s mercy and kindness it was possible. He who emptied himself of equality with God the Father (Philippians 2:5-7), who endured rejection by people believing they understood God better than he did (Matthew 24), and who endured unjust trials and death on a cross, did not call people to a “convenient righteousness.” It is not easy or simple to recognize personal insufficiency, be gentle, be learning constantly, be merciful, be internally pure, make peace, or be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Though exhausting, it is possible.

Do not be a Christian because you expect it to be easy. Be a Christian because you are committed to a Savior. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9). Do not get tired of doing good and being godly.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 6 December 2007

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