Beatitudes Are Scarce These Days
In this time of intense political debate, I have providentially been working through the beatitudes in Matthew 5. There are two beatitudes that are connected that have jumped out at me in our present political context.
In verse five, Jesus pronounces His blessing on the meek, which is fundamentally an attitude of selflessness. The meek person consciously puts the interest of others before himself and does not seek to defend or vindicate himself before others. He only seeks to be faithful to God and to love his neighbor and leaves the rest to God. He trusts God to be his defender and vindicator.
In verse nine, Jesus pronounces his blessing on the peacemaker. The person who actively (not merely passively) seeks to promote and pursue peace is called a son of God, which means that they embody and manifest the very character of God Himself. While being ruled by the principles of Scripture, it requires empathy, self-control over our mind and our tongue, a true desire for reconciliation, and a willingness to forgive when necessary. This heartfelt attitude of peacemaking is an outward implication or consequence of a meek spirit.
Freedom of the Beatitudes
What does the person internally possess who embodies these two beatitudes?
It is a freedom from: our slavery to a personal agenda.
This has always been a rare thing, but it is an extremely uncommon quality in our culture today. This is primarily due to our own sin nature, but there is more to it. In America, we are obsessed with winning. We don’t like to be in second place (or worse) in anything, be it football, finances, politics, or war. It is clearly reflected in the greatest insult that Donald Trump will give to an opponent by calling them a “Loser.” Trump merely reflects the attitude that people want to see our country recover. We are slaves to our desire to seek our personal prosperity, and our national sense of preeminence over other countries.
However, the meek person and the peacemaker is free from this slavery. They are ruled by greater principles and priorities than their own advancement. An example from history would be George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff in World War II, whose life is worthy of study.
He deeply desired the position of Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and could have had the job if he had requested it. However, President Roosevelt wanted him to oversee the war effort from Washington, where he had done an incredible job of rebuilding the armed forces. Even when urged on by others, Marshall adamantly refused to put his own desires first. The job went instead to Dwight Eisenhower, a man Marshall had developed and mentored. History has shown that Marshall’s meek (by no means weak) and unflinching character played out in this instance (and many others) and it played an enormous part to secure the Allied victory, and the post-war rebuilding of Europe. He later served as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, President of the American Red Cross, and was the only military leader to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Churchill called Marshall “the last great American,” and Truman described him “the great one of the age.” He not only won the war, he won the peace by the fruits of his meek, peacemaking, character.
When we are dealing with debates and conflicts in politics, the church, our workplaces, or in our marriages and families, we must do some serious, honest, personal reflection. Am I seeking to be faithful, or am I seeking only to win? Is God’s agenda ruling my actions, or is mine? Am I endeavoring to fulfill the commandments to love God and my neighbor, or am I pursuing my own ends to personal victory over my opponent? Am I seeking to win arguments or win people?
I urge you to consider how you can be free from the slavery to a personal agenda. As the beatitude says, the meek person inherits the earth. How can this happen? When they are free from the desire for personal empire, everything has already become theirs. They realize that they have everything they need.