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.