Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Understanding the Beatitudes

I have never much cared for the Beatitudes of Matthew, specifically that first one: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." What does that even mean? I far prefer the pragmatic, action-based physical reality of Luke, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." Blessed are the poor. Jesus is turning the world upside down. It makes perfect sense to a middle-class white straight aspiring peace and social justice activist.

But poor in spirit? This is much harder to define. It requires more latitude in qualification, more grace in its breadth. It's a lot harder to judge who is "poor in spirit."

But today, as I thought on many of the historical events that led to the state of modern-day Israel and Palestine, I was struck by one of the phrases I saw written on the separation wall yesterday.

"One wall, two jails."

For one of these oppressed people, that jail is that of poverty, of inequality, of injustice, and of occupation. It's easy. "Blessed are the poor."

The other people are oppressed by fear. They have been hurt. They have been killed in horrific ways that make your heart break. They are a people who have felt the terror of occupation. But now they live in a jail of fear. They've locked themselves in without a way to get out. "Blessed are the poor in spirit."

We often see the world how we choose to see it, so I've been able to ignore Matthew's Beatitudes in order to see my own beliefs and justifications become the lens through which I see the world. Today, my eyes were opened to a different understanding.

Let us pray to the God that breaks down barriers that we might be freed from each of our prisons.

1 comment:

  1. One wall, two jails. This is thought provoking, Luke. Well written. We don't often think of the Israelis as prisoners on their side of the wall. And yet, I think you are right. Then again, fear often is the source of violence. Can't wait to hear more first hand.