Christian character is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. Dee Jepson, who served as an assistant to her husband, Roger, a one-term U.S. Senator (R-Iowa, 1979-1985), witnessed this in a profound way in the midst of the power-hungry atmosphere of Washington, D.C. Political maneuvering and posturing to gain influence and power is the name of the game. But one day she saw something deeply different. She wrote, "The unimportance of sophistication was brought home to me at a Capitol Hill luncheon for Mother Theresa... In came this tiny woman, even smaller than I had expected, wearing that familiar blue and white habit, over it a gray sweater that had seen many better days, which she wore again to the White House the next day. As that little woman walked into the room, her bare feet in worn sandals, I saw some of the most powerful leaders in this country stand to their feet with tears in their eyes just to be in her presence. As I listened that afternoon, I thought, 'Don't forget this, Dee. Here is this little woman, who doesn't want a thing, never asked for anything for herself, never demanded anything, or shook her fist in anger, here's real power.' It was a paradox. She has reached down into the gutter and loved and given. She has loved those the world sees as unlovable - the desolate, the dying - because they are created in the image of the God she serves. Ironically, seeking nothing for herself, she has been raised to the pinnacle of world recognition, received the Nobel Peace Prize, and is a figure known to most people, at least in the Western world, and revered by many. She has nothing, yet in a strange way, she has everything."
At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets forth a portrait of a Christian's character in what we know as the "Beatitudes." We are tempted to read the beatitudes simply as measures of godly character and strive to meet the standard. But as we saw last time, these beatitudes are not simply standards of Christian virtue; they are marks of grace that belong to those who have come under the gracious rule of God. We need to know that these are the marks of God's rule in our lives because when we come under the strong and powerful influence of His grace, our lives begin to take on a very counter-cultural character, a new nature that is deeply different. We need to know that being poor in spirit and mourning the loss of innocence and righteousness are marks of being blessed by God. Everyone who belongs to Jesus has each and every one of these attributes in varying degrees, and we are to grow in them as we submit to the rule of Jesus in our lives. So we will pick it up with where we left off last, with the third beatitude.
Read Matthew 5:1-12 carefully, then use the questions below to help you meditate on three of these beatitudes.
1. Two weeks ago we looked at the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek," but we did not get quite that far in the Sunday sermon. So let's refresh our memories on this counter-cultural disposition. How would you define or describe meekness? (Recall Numbers 12:1-16; Matthew 11:29?)
2. In the New Testament "meekness" is often translated as "gentleness." (Gal. 5:23; Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 3:12-13). What is the relationship between meekness and gentleness?
3. (Psalm 37:10-11)
4. What does the world say about meekness and what does Jesus promise the meek?
5. The fourth beatitude is "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied." What does it mean to hunger and thirst for something? What do people around you hunger and thirst for?
* What do you hunger and thirst for?
6. What do you think it looks like to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
* Do you see any connection with the previous three beatitudes?
7. What do you imagine is the nature of Jesus' promise to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? Is it present? Is it future?
8. The fifth beatitude is "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (verse 7). What is mercy and how is it distinct from grace or love?
9. What does mercy look like in Luke 10:25-37? What does it look like in Matthew 18:21-35?
10. In what ways might mercy be a counter-cultural virtue? What does the world generally value?
11. What does Jesus promise to the merciful? (Consider James 2:13).
* Do you think we merit God's mercy by being merciful? What does Jesus mean here?
12. In what way did the Lord address you from His Word? Are these marks of His grace found in your life? In what ways, would you like to grow under His gracious rule in these areas?
Hope to see you on Sunday! God be with you!