Monday, January 18, 2016

Blessed

"Father blessing son at The Wall." Available at
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We Christians use the word "blessed" (or a form of it) frequently. "Have a blest day!" we shout across the fence to our neighbor. If a co-worker in cubicle-land sneezes, we automatically intone "Bless you!" often before we even know who has sneezed.

It's one of those Christian-ese sort of words that we may use a little too easily without really even thinking about, or perhaps understanding, it's meaning.

This may partly be because "blessing" falls halfway into that category of "old-fashioned" words, like caterwauling, gobbledegook, willy-nilly or supercilious.

But it's also a word you'll find frequently in Scripture, at least in most versions, and it appears repeatedly in the first nine verses of Christ's famous "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5.

(By the way, the "Sermon on the Mount" wasn't really a sermon, or something preached, so much as it was something taught. Rabbis typically stood up to preach, and sat down to teach, and Matthew 5:1 says that after Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain and sat down, and His disciples came to him. We don't know how large the crowds were, and whether they all followed him up the mountain or not; but we do know he had at least 72 and perhaps as many as 500 or more disciples.)

In the Greek, the word translated as "blessed" in Matthew 5 is makarios, which literally means to be happy or blissful. Some versions even use "Happy are you" rather than "Blessed are you." However, one still walks away with a general sense that "Blessed" is far more than simply experiencing happiness. The Amplified Bible defines "blessed" as "spiritually calm with life-joy in God's favor." I like the addition of "life-joy in God's favor" to the "blessed" equation. I also like the way "spiritually calm" conveys a sense of inner peace and tranquility.

I've never been to the island of Cyprus. World Vision has an office there and I'd love to visit sometime. The Greeks associated the island of Cyprus with makarios, because of its geographical location, perfect climate, and fertile soil. It was thought that anyone living on Cyprus had it "made in the shade."

To the contrary, says Harvest Fellowship's Greg Laurie, the biblical sense of makarios is independent of one's circumstances and surroundings. This is self-evident even within the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:10 says "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. The circumstance of persecution is a highly negative one. Surely one could not associate the word "happy" with those Christians who were used as human torches in Nero's gardens.

For Christ, peacemaking entailed a horrific cost (death on the cross). And yet, as the ultimate Peacemaker, he was blessed! Hebrews 12:2 tells us that, "For the joy set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross, despising its shame." The Cross itself wasn't a happy thing, it was instead a thing to be endured and despised. But the joy that was set before him was obedience to the Father and the knowledge of what would happen as a result of Christ's sacrifice — that his blood would be the price paid to reconcile you and I to God! He purchased for Himself a people. The joy set before him was the long view, the result of his peacemaking sacrifice, the knowledge of what the cost he was willing to pay would purchase.

The point is that true blessing isn't always "happy happy, joy joy." It sometimes comes with pain. But that pain can be endured if we take the long view and behold with solemn faces the reward that is promised as a result of the beatitude.

Peacemaking isn't by nature fun. It can be very difficult and very painful and very costly. But it is worth it, and the result is blessing: self-contained "life-joy in God's favor" as we trust Him to bring it to fruition in His good timing.

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