Jesus’ culture (and ours) would expect the beatitudes to be, “Blessed are the rich, the powerful, the shrewd and influential—it's clear that God favors them.” But Jesus comes along with his Disorientation, turning the whole thing on its head, basically saying, “Blessed are those who have come to the end of their own strength—that's where they find God.”
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in”
(Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”)
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought” (Matt 5:5, The Message).
At times, it seems excruciatingly difficult to be content with just who we are. In addition to living in a culture that encourages the worst parts of human nature, and that thrives on getting us to want more and more for ourselves (often by getting us to think less of ourselves), we also are not always clear on who we are exactly. And is Jesus saying we should just stay the way we are, even in our sin?
We stand with the crowd on the hillside, listening to Jesus' sermon.
We call out, “And who am I, Jesus?”
“Mine!” he answers. “You are mine.”
Nothing else matters. This is the source of our strength. When we let go of identifying ourselves with things that can be bought, of our need to control others (including what they think about us), of our need to have everything figured out or to appear to have everything figured out—basically, when we let go of our attempts to be strong for ourselves and by ourselves—then we are free to find contentment with who we are in Christ—no more, no less. When we are poor in spirit, when we mourn, when we long for justice, when we are mistreated for standing up for what's right—that, says Jesus, is when we’re strong.
We're strong because we are turning, empty-handed, to God’s embrace. Belonging, being welcomed, being loved, being connected to something life-giving and meaningful—aren’t these the things we all want? And grasping desperately for these things outside of Christ drives so much of our feeling less about ourselves and wanting more for ourselves. These are what everyone wants, and it's what Christ offers to us—and it's what he offers through us. We need to break from the world’s misguided and even evil notions of strength. And we need to be God’s embrace for everyone who has come to the end of themselves. We need to show the disorienting message: The weak are strong.
more than in the things that we have kept"
(Rich Mullins, "What Susan Said")
Practice gratitude. Give something away. Give yourself away. Some things we give up willingly, but some we've had to let go of very unwillingly. Some have been taken from us. And there are wounds and cracks left in their place. But, in Christ, that's where the light gets in. If we have any doubt, just remember the cross.