Beatitudes

Privileges, Rights, & Rejection

It occurs to me lately that many of us have been taking certain privileges for granted, among them the freedoms of speech, expression, religion, and due process. I can hear you cursing at me through your computer screen: “Those are not privileges, they are God-given RIGHTS!” Says who? Says a bunch of guys who have since fallen into relative disrepute on the grounds of their past sins and grievances. Their humanity and frailty have been revealed to us over time, and yet we still cling to their assertion that we have certain inalienable rights, as humans.

But if this were true, people wouldn’t be slaughtered every day for their nationalities, they wouldn’t be executed for their faiths, they wouldn’t be imprisoned for their beliefs. Throughout our country’s history, we—at least some of us—have enjoyed privileges that have not been and are still not enjoyed by our fellow human beings. And still, we feel that we inherently deserve them, that we have somehow earned them. However, if you think back, you can probably identify times when you have felt deprived of those privileges. Maybe you were reprimanded at work because of something you said. Maybe you were ridiculed by your friends because of something you believed. Maybe you were cast out by your family for your stance on a controversial issue. Maybe you felt that the only acceptable response for those around you is silence. Maybe you felt there was not a soul on earth with whom you could be truly honest. These may have been one-time events, or they may plague you to this day. But in those instances, I think most of us feel persecuted or rejected, deprived of our ‘rights’.

But listen to what Jesus says in Luke 6: 22 and 26:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man….

26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Our pastor recently described blessing as a nearness to God; it’s based on spiritual proximity rather than tangible or material gifts. I’ve found that, when I feel betrayed by a confidante, or as though I need to censor my words, thoughts, or actions, I have the great privilege of boldly approaching the throne of grace. And God will welcome me there, He will listen to my pleas, He will justly decide my case. It reminds me of the other night, when our son Tijge came home with an open sore on his hand—one full of dirt and germs and badly needing to be cleaned. After I cleaned it, he hit me several times. I very intentionally allowed him to do so, without scolding or punishing him. Instead, I held him close to me and tried my best to comfort him. Why? Because that’s the way God treats us. The consummate potter, He knows that to mold us into the people He intends for us to be, He must draw us close to Himself and not push us away. We need to know that, in His arms, we will find a safe place to air our grievances, disappointments, fears, and failures. And that is exactly what He offers. May you find that peace and comfort in His arms, today and every day, and may God richly bless you.

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Hunger

Luke 6:21a

“Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.”

We are currently in the season of the beatitudes. It seems that pastors, speakers, writers, and church leaders of all kinds and denominations have received the divine memo that states, “Thou shalt teach from the Sermon on the Mount.” In faithfulness to this command, our church is in the midst of a sermon series called, “#Blessed.” And this past week, our pastor spoke on the hunger that Luke describes in Chapter 6 as a blessing.

He talked about just how much our current culture differs from that of the people to whom Jesus was speaking on that day. Specifically, the crowd was full of marginalized, poor, hungry, and sick people. In fact, up to 90% of that population would face the threat of starvation on a regular basis. In contrast, most of us do not allow ourselves to feel hunger even momentarily. We fill our stomachs the moment a craving or twinge of hunger hits us—if not before. Am I right? And why do we do this? I would argue that it’s largely because we can. Most of the time, we have the ability to instantly satisfy our basic material desires, and then some. And as we learned on Sunday, physical gratification can actually lead to a lack of satisfaction and a “need” or “craving” for even more physical gratification.

It is through this vicious cycle that our own bodies can become the instrument, source, and vessel for many sins. Well, no one wants that, so of course I took seriously the closing challenge that we sit with our cravings and let them pass. But whenever I did refuse to give in to a craving, I found myself waiting anxiously for God to swoop in and satisfy that craving Himself—and feeling a sense of righteous indignation when He did not. But do you know what I realized? Those people on the mount, they didn’t leave that day with their stomachs full. And they continued to face abject poverty and material hunger, probably for the remainder of their days on earth. So why, then, would I expect God to satisfy my every desire of the flesh?

Oh, He does satisfy, don’t get me wrong. But perhaps He does so by showing us that the things we are craving aren’t the things that we’re meant to be craving. Perhaps He shows us that life will not come to a screaming halt just because we sense the emptiness of an unmet need or desire. Perhaps we realize that He ultimately is enough. Perhaps at those times when we fail, and give in to those cravings, we realize that they don’t bring satisfaction after all. Perhaps we realize that our true hunger is one that this world can’t satisfy.

And when I reflect on any one of these truths, I truly do feel #blessed. How about you?

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