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Living beatitudes

Does anyone else feel that the world is spinning out of control? The inauguration of the US president, and the opening days of his rule, seems to have turned the world on its head—or perhaps it is better to say that what used to lie simmering beneath the surface of contemporary life has now broken into the daylight. Even in our own country, we have begun to see some of this. And so there has descended upon many of us a sense of unrest, anxiety, and fear. What will happen in the future? What horror will we face next? Will this ever stop?

I find that these are days where we need to hear the Beatitudes in their truest context. I am reminded that the Beatitudes are not simple, pie-in-the-sky statements of blissful morality. They are not naive descriptions of world-peace, or the plea for us all to ‘play-nice’. No. Jesus is teaching the disciples, and the crowd around him, about what it means to be an alternative community of people. Jesus calls us to live out the Kingdom of God, often in opposition to the messages and values of the world around us. The Beatitudes, and the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount for that matter, is perhaps Jesus’ most ‘political’ of teachings. Yet for me, the power in this lies in the fact these politically, socially charged statements are radical precisely because Jesus doesn’t issue a diatribe on politics and social ethic. Rather, he calls people the reality of God’s presence, and the blessing of God that surrounds them.

Think about who Jesus is speaking to. These are the down and out. They are the people who have been waiting, longing, praying, and crying out for a touch of God’s hand in their lives. These are the people that have been on the wrong side of power. But instead of stating how wonderful it would be if everyone would just help one another, Jesus points them to a deeper reality than the ‘alternative truths’ of the Roman Empire and the powerful elite. Jesus reminds them, and us, that the blessing of God—the activity, favour, and power of the one who created all things—is met precisely in their questions and their fears.

In this way Jesus calls them to a better kingdom. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he says. Yet peace is not found in simply becoming the big kid on the block. Replacing one tyrannical ruler with our own tyrannical rule does not make for peace: it just means we are in control. And this way of life is as much steeped in the rhetoric of power and dominance as the script that tells others to build a wall and kick the foreigners out.

Jesus calls us to stand against the ethic of power, but not in violence or usurpation. The Kingdom of God is not a better kingdom because it is bigger or more powerful. It is better because it is a kingdom of self-sacrificial love. The call to mercy is the willingness to step outside of the cycle of violence and hatred—to be the one who will extend the hand of peace and forgiveness. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “You have heard it said ‘love your neighbour, hate your enemies—but I say ‘love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Living in the Kingdom of God calls us to be a people of hope. We are asked to believe that we ‘will see God’ for no other reason than Jesus has promised it to be so. We are to have the hope that, despite the ‘alternative facts’ promoted by those in power, God actually is in control of this crazy world of ours: God will bring healing, peace, justice and righteousness to the earth. The community of people that Jesus inaugurates on the mountain is a community of people who are so filled with hope that they choose to live their lives as if the Kingdom of God was a full reality around them.

Can we be this community? Can we be a community, not of critique but of compassion—and by doing so allow our compassion to provide the necessary critique to the scripts of denial in this world of ours? Can we let the love of Jesus so fill our hearts that we turn our cheeks and go extra miles as an expression of God’s love for all people, even those  who use power to dominate and oppress? This is not easy, which is probably why Jesus concludes the Beatitudes by speaking to persecution and rejection. But we aren’t in the Kingdom of God for ease, or clout, or to push through our manifest destinies. We are in the Kingdom of God because the radical love and peace of Jesus is the only thing that can stem the sin of hate and pride in us, and in each other.

This is what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This is what it means to be a people of love and blessing, a people who live in, and live out, the Kingdom of God.

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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10 Responses to Living beatitudes

  1. I will always remember the Anno Domini exhibit in Edmonton decades ago, sharing it with Jeff Gailus, and knowing he understands and lives them. Blessings.

  2. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” We need this advice in the 21st century as much as ever.

  3. Everyone should read this extract from a blog posted by John Pavlovitz;- Yes, I am a Christian, but there is a Christian I refuse to be.
    I refuse to be a Christian who lives in fear of people who look or speak or worship differently than I do.
    I refuse to be a Christian who believes that God blesses America more than God so loves the world.
    I refuse to be a Christian who uses the Bible to perpetuate individual or systemic bigotry, racism, or sexism.
    I refuse to be a Christian who treasures allegiance to a flag or a country or a political party, above emulating Jesus.
    I refuse to be a Christian who is reluctant to call-out the words of hateful preachers, venomous politicians, and mean-spirited pew sitters, in the name of keeping Christian unity.
    I refuse to be a Christian who tolerates a global Church where all people are not openly welcomed, fully celebrated, and equally cared for.
    I refuse to be a Christian who speaks always with holy war rhetoric about an encroaching enemy horde that must be rallied against and defeated.
    I refuse to be a Christian who is generous with damnation and stingy with Grace.
    I refuse to be a Christian who can’t see the image of God in people of every color, every religious tradition, every sexual orientation.
    I refuse to be a Christian who demands that others believe what I believe or live as I live or profess what I profess.
    I refuse to be a Christian who sees the world in a hopeless spiral downward and can only condemn it or withdraw from it.
    I refuse to be a Christian devoid of the character of Jesus; his humility, his compassion, his smallness, his gentleness with people’s wounds, his attention to the poor and the forgotten and the marginalized, his intolerance for religious hypocrisy, his clear expression of the love of God.
    I refuse to be a Christian unless it means I live as a person of hospitality, of healing, of redemption, of justice, of expectation-defying Grace, of counterintuitive love. These are non-negotiables.
    Yes, it is much more difficult to say it these days than it has ever been, but I still do say it.
    I am still a Christian—but I refuse to be one without Jesus.

    • One question.. Does what you believe contradict what is in the bible?

      • Kyle Norman

        Hi Tony. Is that a question for me personally, or a comment about how we are to place our ideologies before that authority of scripture?

        If it is question for me, then the (short) answer is . . . .Nope! (Although for a longer answer I would have to nuance this with an appeal to humility and teach-ability. Despite what I tell others, I don’t actually know everything).

        If it is a comment about ideologies, then I would agree with you. But I would say that it is not as easy as saying ‘yes or no’ – we need to be humble and open to the guidance of the Spirit. There is a big danger in believing that God thinks about all things exactly the same way I do.

        Blessings!

        • No I was replying to Malcolm .I agree with what you are saying, I just wanted to see where he was coming from.
          Blessings

    • Tony Houghton occasionally I find that I have questions that do differ

    • That is not a problem to have questions, but we are to be conformed to what it says and teaches not to what we want it to say.

  4. Tony Houghton if we live in the Light , live a life looking like Jesus looked with compassion and self control and love our world would look so different. Thus the word Christian …a follower of Christ.. should mean something different than what the world sees in our world. We are to encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5: 1- 11.
    Thanks for the encouragement

  5. Sadly we see another politically partisan minister distorting God’s word to fit the Left’s deceitful and divisive narrative.

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