A New Iteration of Our Present World (Part 1 of 3)

A New Iteration of Our Present World (Part 1 of 3) January 24, 2023

new iteration of our present world

 

This week, I’d like to discuss what a new iteration of our present world could look like. Our reading is from the gospel of Matthew:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

  Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

  Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

  Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

  Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)

 

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As we read Matthew’s sermon on the mount, I find it helpful to remember that these words are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are also about practicing a preferential option for people living in a different social location than the locations this world priorities, centers, and privileges. Let’s break these ideas down a bit.

First what do we mean by “descriptive, not prescriptive”? Jesus’ words have long been interpreted as rules or prescriptions in more privileged expressions of Christianity. These “beatitudes” or blessings have been read as spiritual virtues that Christians should foster in themselves so they can receive the referenced blessings: be poor in spirit, mourn for the “sins of the world” or one’s personal sins, practice meekness, hunger for righteousness, practice mercy, strive to be pure in one’s heart, be a peace keeper, and patiently and often passively endure under persecution. In this interpretation, we should practice all of these virtues for our whole lives, knowing that we will reap a reward.

I could not disagree with this interpretation more. I’ll discuss why, next.

(Read Part 2.)

About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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