I had a relatively easy childhood. I think that’s why the beginning of Jesus’s most famous sermon, “The Sermon on the Mount” used to sound depressing to me. The passage is often called “The Beatitudes.” I called them “The Blesseds.” Here are two of them—the two whose promise is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In my happy young mind, I was somehow supposed to seek out being poor in spirit, whatever that was, and persecution, in order to receive the kingdom. I could handle some of the other blesseds (“blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” didn’t sound so bad) but others almost repelled me. Especially the two that promised the kingdom of heaven. To be sure, “for they shall see God” might imply going to heaven, but I think it’s funny that God prompted me to search the word “kingdom” and it led me to the most difficult “blesseds” for me.
Now that I’m older, I realize that while some of the qualifications for being blessed in this passage were indeed to be nurtured (gentleness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness) some of the more depressing ones were going to come about, given enough time, because that’s how life is. (Mourning, persecution.)
As for persecution, so far I haven’t faced it, except in the form of general anti-Christian statements on social media. But what about being poor in spirit? A quick internet search led me to Billy Graham’s definition. It’s really about humility—realizing our sinfulness and need for Jesus. So it can be cultivated.
The “blesseds” aren’t so depressing for me anymore. Not that I’m out of my sheltered, happy childhood, I see them as glowing ember promises warming a cold world.
My kingdom statement I’ll use to replace my worries today is WHEN I’M PERSECUTED OR POOR IN SPIRIT, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS MINE.
*New American Standard Bible translations used with permission by The Lockman Foundation.