Jesus is a dear friend to losers. This is my great hope.
I don’t know what the great throng expected to hear from the newly famous, miracle-working rabbi when they sat down on a mountainside and turned their heads into the slight breeze to hear him speak. I’m not sure they ever forgot that the first words out of his mouth were blessings for losers. In churchworld, they are called the Beatitudes, but I’m not even sure what that means. So I’ll call them what they sound like to me: the Blessings for Losers.
I haven’t always seen them that way. For the longest time, in fact, I saw them as the blessings for winners. For saints. For spiritual super-heroes. For the strong. (And so, not really for me.) But a clearer picture has emerged with time, experience and closer attention. Each “blessed are the” is gracing someone who has suffered loss in life.
Some of the losses are obvious. Those who mourn. Those who are persecuted. Those who are poor in spirit. Not looking closely, however, I missed the losses embedded in other blessings.
Blessed are the merciful. I thought of kind, compassionate, caring people. Strong people. But when do you show mercy? When you’ve been wounded or cheated or lied about. Jesus does not say “blessed are the generally nice.” No, blessed are the merciful. The merciful have suffered a loss. The blessing is for losers.
Blessed are the peacemakers. You can see where I’m going now. I thought of brave reconcilers. Strong people. But when must you make peace? When you are in the middle of fights and disagreements and separations and attacks and war. Jesus does not say “blessed are soft-spoken peaceful people. No, blessed are the peacemakers. The peacemakers have encountered a loss. The blessing is for losers.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. I’ve thought of those people who love God deeply and faithfully and want to read His Word all of the time and pray often. The spiritually strong. Those people who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
For me, this blessing has almost always felt like an indictment. I am not that person. I have instead resonated for decades with the cry of the Psalmist when he agonizes: “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed… (Psalm 119:5-6, KJV) I want to want to do right, but my desires and loves are all over the place. My thoughts mirror the Apostle Paul when says: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19, NIV)
But what if I am exactly the person that Jesus is blessing? This, I have come to believe this very week, is true. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a righteousness they just can’t seem to produce. The hungry are those who have experienced a loss. They fall short of righteousness. They don’t love God as they ought, but in their best moments, they want to. The blessing is for losers. Like me.
Jesus words that echoed down a windswept hillside and right into our century are not affirmations for people who have it all together. They are gracious promises for people experiencing the wide range of loss that surfaces living in a broken world with broken people. They are light and hope in the death and the darkness.
And so, the prophet, Isaiah, was right when he said of Jesus, of the people sitting on that hillside, and of us: “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16, NIV)
Blessed are the Losers.
[Feature photo by Wokandapix on Pixabay.com]