Our desire for life-improvement is real...
Our desire for life-improvement is real. We are constantly looking for the next book to read—the next author, doctor or expert to help solve our problems. Learning is life-giving, because learning often brings about a metamorphosis. People who say they don't like change make me smile, because the reality is those people don't like undesirable change. We all want some type of change in our lives. Whether we want a new job, a new school, more money, a different marriage, kids that do what we want when we want, home improvements, deeper friendships or family relationships, the list goes on and on. We often make goals for things outside of our control, because outside sources really do create times of stress as well as joy. Life is up and down, fun and confusing at the same time. We are always looking for that perfect source of information, those life-changing words that can make our world better, the fount of wisdom leading us on a path towards less suffering. Just LESS of the hard.
But (there's always a "but"), what if those life-changing words are already spoken into our world but are crowded out by all the "extras"? Often our lives need to look different, but confusion on where to start with our personal transformation is paralyzing. How do we cut out all the noise? Getting back to the basics, a foundation of hope and change, is freeing.
The longest speech Jesus ever made, known as the Sermon on the Mount, starts with eight incredible statements that encapsulate both the heart and resulting fruit of a Christian believer. These statements demonstrate how different Jesus' message is from the powerful conquests desired by man.
From the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-11(ESV)
Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Meekness, love, humility and peace are foundational to the Christian heart. So much so that Jesus started and ended his earthly ministry not with his innate, Godly power capable of controlling/destroying man, but instead with examples of humility and sacrifice driven by divine love.
The world will always want power in all its forms. Power means control, and we want to command the world around us. But Jesus said this is not the life of a Godly believer. We know God is sovereign and in control and we are not. Our power is limited, God's is limitless. Our authority is bound, God's is boundless. Our money demonstrates our heart, so God says let it go. The fruit of the poor in Spirit is an inherited kingdom. The fruit of the meek is a newly inherited earth. The fruit of those who are merciful is personal mercy. The fruit of peacemakers is the label "Sons of God." The fruit of the pure at heart is seeing the sovereign God, creator of the World.
It is easy to fall into the temptation to fight, to demonstrate our earthly, sometimes-righteous anger in all it's possible forms whether they be written or verbal (social media—insta, twitter, FB, yada yada yada...). Whether pointed at someone close to us, or someone making decisions that we feel impact us in a negative way, or a celebrity, pastor or politician we claim to know everything about (although we have never talked with them a day in our life), we often express our indignation using cutting lines and large generalities aimed at making sure people know how wrong they are. We forget Jesus wants us to look at our own hearts, our own motivation, our own definition of love. A believer in Jesus has a heart shaped by God with desires not tied to man's definition of success and power. Meekness, humility, love and mercy ought to be our default positions, simply because we know our tendencies towards selfishness, greed, lust, and control.
Jesus turns the human expectations of greatness upside down. Divine blessings are not for the powerful or the authoritarian. Jesus said blessings are for the meek, the poor in spirit, the merciful and the pure of heart. Christians are not called to look like everyone else. There are many non-believers who are giving, kind, incredible people. We are called to be extraordinarily different. Sacrificial and humble in how we care for the world, willing to give up our own comfort so another human can see an example of Jesus. This takes work, dedication and a heart changed by the gospel.
As we work at improving our lives, maybe the place to start is in our own mind, emotions and actions. Sometimes it's best to get back to the basics and explore what Jesus says produces real fruit worth our time, effort and emotional endurance. Start there, and watch God do incredible things inside your heart.