While the first four beatitudes (which we looked at earlier) deal with inward qualities, the remaining five (which we’ll check out now) deal with our attitudes towards others.
In this second section, Jesus starts off by saying, “Happy are the kind and merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Now if we’re honest, most of us would have to admit that showing mercy and kindness is not always an easy thing to do, especially when we are injured by the words and actions of others. Friendships dissolve, family members stop speaking to each other and relationships often end because someone said or did the wrong thing. If you’re in a position where someone has hurt you, there are usually two ways you can respond…
- You can try to strike back in some way and injure the person that hurt you
- Or you can show them mercy
In other words, you can choose to forgive or you can choose to hold a grudge. You can choose to act like God acts towards us -with mercy- or you can choose to act the way that people often act towards each other. In fact, Jesus once told a story that illustrates this difference pretty clearly…
But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, ‘Oh sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.’ The king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt.
But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. ‘Be patient and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full.
Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened. And the king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to- shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?’
Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every last penny due. So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers” (Matthew 18:23-35).
You see, we have to be ready to forgive others if we expect to be forgiven ourselves. Now someone in this situation might say, “Yeah, but I’m still angry– I don’t want to be merciful” If you feel that way then the thing to do is to be honest with God about the way that you feel and ask Him to give you the desire and ability to show mercy in that situation. Remember, Jesus tells you that you are really blessed if you are merciful for you will receive mercy!
Next, Jesus says, “Happy are those whose hearts are pure, for they shall see God.” For example, you are blessed if your heart is pure and you aren’t lusting after some guy or girl. You are fortunate if your heart is pure and you don’t cheat because you think you can get away with it. You are blessed if your heart is pure and you aren’t lying or watching inappropriate stuff on television or listening to music that is out of line with God’s Word. Jesus says, “Happy are those whose hearts are pure…” because those people shall see God!
Next up on our plate of beatitudes is “Happy are those who strive for peace- they shall be called sons of God.” Unfortunately, many people seem to think of God as a “Big Bad Guy in the Sky” who is just waiting to punish people. But if you read the Bible, you’ll find that the Scriptures tell a much different story about what God is really like.
While it is certainly true that God punishes sin, the Bible clearly tells us that God’s first and foremost desire is that there be peace and reconciliation between Himself and all people. God demonstrated His desire for peace with us through Jesus’ death on the cross, for as it says in Romans 5:1, “…since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV).
Despite what some believe, God doesn’t start fights with people. On the contrary, God desires to have a good relationship with people and those who act as peacemakers are following in His footsteps. In 2 Corinthians 5:18, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the privilege of telling people that they can get right with God through what Jesus did on the cross. Those people who act as reconcilers, peacemakers and mediators are acting as true sons and daughters of God.
Jesus then says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, those people who are being mistreated because they are living the kind of life that is pleasing to God should consider themselves to be very fortunate. Jesus says that they should feel this way because theirs is the “kingdom of heaven.” So what exactly is this “kingdom of heaven”?
Well, the “kingdom of heaven” can refer to a present time and a future time. First, the “kingdom of heaven” is any place where God rules and people follow Him. We can see this today in places where God’s Word is communicated and people respond by accepting it and being built up, encouraged and strengthened as Christians. When these things occur we can say that the “kingdom of heaven is among us” because those things are all characteristics of God’s leadership. It also important to remember that a place where the kingdom of heaven reigns doesn’t necessarily have to be a church- it could be a prison, a house, a hospital, a school or even someone’s life.
The kingdom of heaven will be fulfilled completely in the future when Jesus returns (see Revelation 1:7). This means that anyone who has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for their sins has something to really look forward to. At that time there will be no longer be any injustices like we often see in our world today. No one then will ever have to be afraid and no one will ever be lonely, left out, or left behind. In this coming kingdom of God, no one will ever talk behind your back, lie to you, or steal from you. Jesus will rule in total righteousness and He says that all these things will belong to those who follow Him and are not afraid to suffer for it if necessary.
Finally, Jesus says, “When you are reviled and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers- wonderful! Be happy about it. Be very glad for a tremendous reward awaits you up in heaven.” What Jesus is speaking of here often occurs when people insult you for making a decision to do (or not do) something because of your relationship with God. It occurs when people injure or insult you because you believe that it’s more important to be pleasing to God first, then others. Jesus says that when these things happen, you should be exceedingly happy! Why? Well, the answer is found in the next sentence- “And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too.”
When people criticize you (or worse) for being “too religious” then Jesus says that you’ve crossed the line and have joined the great men and women of God who have been persecuted too. Can you imagine that? Jesus actually says that when you are persecuted for your faith, you are in the company of people like Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and many other great men and women of God who stood tough because of what they believed in.
In Matthew 10:22 Jesus told his disciples, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” No matter how difficult things may be now, Jesus has given you His personal assurance that a great reward awaits you if you stand firm for Him.