Heaven on Earth

The Beatitudes of Jesus, found in Matthew 5:3-12, have had an enormous role in the history of the church’s thinking both about Jesus and about Christian ethics and virtues. For many the Beatitudes are to be memorized as virtues toward which we strive, and as virtues that remind each of us what God expects for those who name the name of Jesus.

There are, of course, alternative readings of the Beatitudes, including seeing them not so much as a list of virtues but as entrance requirements into the kingdom. Others see the Beatitudes as a manifesto, right up top of the Sermon on the Mount, of the sorts that make it into the kingdom as opposed to a group (see Luke’s version at 6:20-26) who won’t make it into the kingdom. In this view, then, Jesus immediately confronts his audience with the “ins” and “outs” of the kingdom.

It is not the day to examine the options and sort out which view is the best, but instead to recognize that on almost any view there is a “list of virtues” theme that needs to be given attention.

I am happy to recommend for such a reading the new book by Chris Seidman and Josh Graves, Heaven on Earth: Realizing the Good Life Now. This is a preacher’s dream book for preaching the Beatitudes, while it is also eminently useful for the Christian who wants to be reminded of the concrete realities of the various virtues mentioned in the Beatitudes. Each chp — one for each Beatitude — dwells on the living realities in the here and now of these Beatitudes, and both of these preachers (both pastor/preach in the Churches of Christ) bring to the table both practical realities and wonderful stories for each beatitude.

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  • Scott Gay

    I waited for responses. Actually, I am willing to listen. I couldn’t agree more that there is a list of virtues that need to be given attention. And I would like people to reflect on the overlapping integration between the Beatitudes, the fruits of the Spirit, and the seven virtues(and their gloss).

    As for the list, our Lord is so insightful. I like to talk to people about the beatitudes, with the results first and the blessings second:
    will be satisfied- we humans think in terms of food and water, getting… BUT He says hungering and thirsting for justice….it is actually in temperance(also involves self-control and honor).
    their’s is the kingdom-we humans are prideful of our groups and their accomplishments…BUT, He says the humble….it involves modesty and reverence and humility to make the group.
    called son’s of God- we humans often think in terms of God(and family) as rightly wrathful…..BUT, He says it is the peaceful( those of ahisma, emphasizing mercy, even patience and suffering for it).
    will see God- we humans think of a time of luxury almost like kings( gold, jewels, royal)…..BUT, He says it’s chastity that is necessary( it involves purity, and honesty, and even knowledge and wisdom). Imagine it is the wise who see God.
    will inheret the earth- we humans think in terms of envy which occurs when we lack another’s perceived superior position( like the powerful, strong)…..BUT, He says it is the gentle( it involves satisfaction and compassion and kindness).
    will receive mercy-humanly, this really is the stuff the other vices are made of-it is
    revengeful……..BUT, He says those that are merciful are those that get it.( This often translate into generosity, benevolence, even sacrifice).
    will be comforted- we think in terms of relaxing, going with the flow, less stress…….BUT, He says it is those that pine( they mourn for rectitude). This often translates into being faithful and diligent in ethics.

    I don’t have a great appreciation of the options or views of the Beatitudes, but I like it when we give them more time and attention.

  • I don’t think they are “virtues” at all. They are Jesus’ gospel blessings on those the world does not bless.

  • Percival

    chaplain mike — “They are gospel blessings on those the world does not bless.” That is the best, most concise description I’ve ever seen.

  • Paul T

    I agree with Chaplain Mike. When I read the beatitudes I keep going back to Dallas Willard’s interpretation in “The Divine Conspiracy.” That they are descriptive instead of prescriptive.

  • Chaplain Mike,
    Wish I would have had that before we wrote the book! Excellent.

  • Mike M

    Scott Gay: say what?
    Percival: a very Dallas Willard interpretation indeed. Thinking about a bumper sticker way to say that. Like “DW says” or “The Willard Way says…”