Pastor’s Friday Comments (10.16.20)

On Wednesday, during our Midweek Prayer Service, I shared a meditation called “The Virtues of Kingdom People,” based on a chapter with that title in David Gushee and Glen Stassen’s book, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. I chose that topic because, in the contentious political, racial, and religious environment in which we find ourselves right now, it is as important as it has ever been for Christians to understand and to cultivate the virtues that conform to the life of Christ. These are the traits that set us apart from the world and that bear testimony to what God is doing in us.

Gushee and Stassen remind us, however, that these virtues are not simply ideals to which we should strive but which we can never attain. Instead, they are gifts from God that were announced as good news by Jesus, meant for anyone who was willing to follow his way.

These virtues are summarized in the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, the part commonly called the Beatitudes, found in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Even if you were present on Wednesday evening for our Zoom meeting, they bear repeating. At least for the next three weeks, please pray over these virtues and ask God to make them real within your life. That could be long enough to make them stick.

Here are the virtues and the summary statements from Gushee and Stassen:

Poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)

Followers of Jesus participate in God’s reign by humbling themselves before God, giving themselves over to God, depending on God’s deliverance, and following God in caring for the poor and oppressed. Blessed are the humble before God, who cares for the poor and humble.

Those who mourn (5:4)

Blessed are those who mourn what is wrong and unjust in themselves and the world, and sincerely repent, for God comforts those who suffer and those who truly repent.

The humble (5:5)

Blessed are those who are surrendered to God, who is the God of peace.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:6)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a justice that delivers and restores to covenant community, for God is a God who brings such justice.

Merciful (5:7)

Blessed are those who, like God, offer compassion in action, forgiveness, healing, aid, and covenant steadfastness to those in need.

Pure in heart (5:8)

Blessed are those who give their whole self over to God, who is the only One worthy of the heart’s full devotion.

Peacemakers (5:9)

Blessed are those who make peace with their enemies, as God shows love to God’s enemies.

Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (5:10)

Blessed are those who suffer because of their practices of loyalty to Jesus and to justice.

What may strike you as you read this list is how absent these virtues seem to be in our culture today. You can’t change the habits, conduct, or attitude of anyone else. But you can ask God to change you. This would be a good time to do that.