INSIGHTS FROM BONHOEFFER AND LEWIS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10)
Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God.
Too often, we reduce purity to the area of sexuality. Whereas purity does involve sexual purity, purity in the NT is far more comprehensive that just sexual purity [which would be different from the Jewish view in Jesus' day which saw purity mainly as being about washing one's hands, etc.]. According to Hauch, "The purity of the NT community is personal and moral by nature [as opposed to the Jewish ceremonial view of purity]. It consists in full and unreserved self-offering to God which renews the heart and rules out any acceptance of what is against God" (TDNT 3:425). In other words, the believer sets his gaze completely upon Christ.
We got a taste of this in our discussion on 5:6 where the relationship of the Christian to Christ is similar to that of the bride to the bridegroom. At some weddings, the groom is so in love with the bride that he has eyes only for her as she walks down the aisle. He can't take his eyes off her. You can't wipe the grin off his face either because he is so happy. Well, as good a groom as many of you were, Christ is an even greater bridegroom who just can't keep His eyes off His bride, the Church, Christians. Such a groom deserves a bride who can't keep her eyes off Him. That is what it means to be pure in heart.
Too many of us, though, are spiritually like Marty Feldman, the comedic genius who played Igor (pron. EYE-gore in this movie!). He had one wandering eye. One eye would focus on you; the other would be pointing in a different direction. You never knew exactly what he was looking at. Jesus actually calls this the "evil eye" (Matt. 6:22). Christ, though, wants us to have a single focus. Why? Double focus blocks the light, allowing in darkness, spiritual darkness. The single eye, the single focus, allows in light--His light, that is, if we are focusing on Him. We can't have Christ and something else, or Christ and someone else. We are to focus on Him.
Why don't we keep our focus, our eyes on Jesus? We are spiritual Marty Feldmans who turn one eye/focus on Jesus and the other eye/focus on something/someone else. It is because many times we forget how wonderful He truly is. The reason the groom can't take his eyes off his bride is that he thinks she is so wonderful. As wonderful as people are, though, how much more wonderful is Jesus.
I think to a large extent the poets and artists have tapped into Ultimate Reality more than anybody else has. You go to the Canadian Rockies or to the third floor at the Musee D'Orsay and see all the Renoirs, Degas, and Monets--you come away so overwhelmed by the beauty. We actually mistakenly and foolishly think that the mountains and the Renoirs are the source of this beauty. They are not. They are only the expressions of that ultimate beauty, the beauty and wonder found in Christ. Yes, people are beautiful, wonderful; so is nature. But all these pale when compared to the Beautiful, Glorious, and Wonderful Christ, the source of their beauty. When we come to appreciate how wonderful He is, we will have no problem keeping our gaze fixed firmly on Him.
"But," you might ask, "isn't constant focusing on Jesus unrealistic? Shouldn't we focus many times on the things and people of this world, like our families?" Yes and no. The bottom line is this: if we focus on Jesus, He is going to direct us to care for the primary relationships in our lives.
In case you think this is not true, just look back at the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus did spend a lot of time in devotion. Sometime just study the devotional life of Jesus found in the Gospels. The disciples would wake up some mornings and see Jesus coming down from the mountain where He had spent a whole night in prayer. Yet in spite of this intense devotional life, Jesus was constantly mixing with and minister to people. They pressed upon Him continually to glean from His teaching and healing ministries. Yes, He took vacations (Matt. 16--to Caesarea Philippi). However, His life to a large extent was spent among the crowds. Well, if Christ cares for people and we keep our focus on Christ, He will direct us towards people. The "spiritual" Christian who sits in his study all day long may be following Jesus; he is just not following the Jesus of the New Testament.
Instead of taking away from our relationships, the truth is these relationships will be better if we do focus on Jesus. For example, according to Paul (whose focus was on Jesus), how is the husband supposed to treat his wife (Eph. 5:25)?
Lewis writes: "Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world [of Jesus] is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."
When it is all said and done, one day your wife should be able to look back on your married life and say, "Because of you, I now know what it would have been like to have been married to Jesus Himself. You were the same kind of husband to me that Jesus would have been." Now that's a compliment...it is also pressure upon the man, but it is pressure Christ wants to place upon us men who are believers.
Once more will emerge the issue: "That's impossible! I can't do that! So why even bother?" Two responses. First, suppose you can't be like Christ 100% of the time. Maybe you can be like Him only 50% of the time. Ask your wife: would she rather you try to be like Christ and make it only 50% of the time or would she rather you not even try and never be like Christ? 50% compliance is always better than 0% compliance.
Second, we need to quit thinking that there are alternatives. The reason we fail so often is that we think there are alternatives. When there are no alternatives, then the impossible may just be achieved. Probably the greatest war movie of all times is Patton. That movie details one of the most heroic and dramatic military ventures of all time: the relief of the the American 101st Airborne Division and Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division at Bastogne in Belgium (aka the Battle of the Bulge). Patton claimed that he would do the impossible: ready his men within 48 hrs. in order to march on Bastogne and defeat the Germans there. He was able to do "the impossible" because he knew that to fail would mean the Allies would lose the war. That was the only impossible in his opinion. When our attitude is that NOT being like Christ is impossible, then we will do the possible: be like Christ in the power of the Spirit to our wives.
What promise does Jesus give to those who are pure in heart (Matt. 5:8)?
What does the author of Hebrews promise those who are not serious about sanctification, that is, purity (Heb. 12:14)?
In Revelation 21-22 John lists all the wonderful blessings Christians will receive upon the return of Christ. What does John promise believers in Rev. 22:4 (a reference to the face of God the Father)?
What does the author of Hebrews promise those who are not serious about sanctification, that is, purity (Heb. 12:14)?
Lewis speaks about this special ability on the part of Christians to be able to recognize the divine touch upon people: "Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off.
They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of 'religious people' which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be needed: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from.
When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun."
AND NOW FROM BONHOEFFER: From the Beatitudes
DB: "Who is pure in heart? Only those who have ________________ surrendered their hearts completely to Jesus that he may reign in them alone. Only those whose hearts are undefiled by their own evil--and by their own __________ too. The pure in heart have a child-like simplicity like __________ before the fall, innocent alike of good and evil: their hearts are not ruled by their conscience, but by the will of Jesus. If men renounce their own good, or if in penitence they have renounced their own hearts, if they rely solely upon __________________, then his word purifies their hearts. Purity of heart is here contrasted with all outward purity, even the purity of high intentions. The pure of heart is pure alike of good and evil, it belongs exclusively to ______________ and looks only to him who goes on before. . . . They are wholly absorbed by the _______________ of God."
Just a side note here. None of this is to say that sexual purity is NOT important. It is. In fact, when Paul first speaks about holiness in 1 Thess. 4, he zeroes in on the issue of sexual purity because of the cesspool of morality the ancient world found itself in. Unfortunately, in our twisted view of freedom, we have plunged our world and our children into a similar cesspool. What our children are watching today would, in the words of Michael Cane, "blow the tube out of the telly" if TV had shown the same thing when we were growing up.
Note also that a person is either pure or impure. He's not mainly pure; he is either pure or impure. To test this, take somebody's drink (32 oz. preferably) and just add a little bit of your spit to it. See how they react. That drink will still be 99.999% of the original drink and only 0.001% of your spit. You can argue proportionality. They won't care. At the least they won't drink it. At the most, they might smack you in the face. The point is that that 0.001% rendered the entire drink impure.
It's just that a person can be sexually pure but not pure in the NT sense; purity primarily means focus on Jesus. If a person focuses on Jesus, he will be pure sexually AND pure in the other things that matter: money, ambition, goals, etc.
THE PEACEMAKERS (Matt. 5:9)
Blessed are the peacemakers
for they shall be called sons of God.
According to Foerster, this beatitude refers to those who try to create peace between people. "The reference is to those who disinterestedly come between two contending parties and try to make peace. These God calls His sons because they are like Him" (TDNT 2:419).
At this time in her history when Jesus was walking the earth, an element was gaining strength in Israel which promoted violence against the Romans in order to gain freedom. This element was called the "Zealots." An even more vicious group was called the "Sicarri," which literally means the "dagger" because its members would sneak upon an unsuspecting Roman and plunge a dagger into his vital organs. "Such means would have been a continual temptation for the downtrodden and oppressed who longed for the kingdom. The Zealots by their militarism hoped furthermore to demonstrate that they were the loyal 'sons of God.' But Jesus announces the kingdom entirely apart from human effort and indicates that the status of . . . "children of God" . . ., belongs on the contrary to those who live peaceably. It is the peacemakers who will be called the 'children of God.' . . . This stress on peace becomes a common motif in the NT" (WBC: 94).
This is a scary time in our nation's history. With the exception of the Civil War and the 1960's, never has politics aroused such passion in our nation as it does today. You will see signs quoting Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." One Russian academic, Igor Panarin actually predicted the stress on the U.S. will fracture it into 6 different nations (see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051100709638419.html). We have been brought up learning U.S. history which teaches us that the U.S. was birthed in violence.
Now is violence or war ever justified? To that question Jesus would probably reply "Yes." What does Jesus claim in Matt. 22:21 about our responsibility to the government (the violent defense of the nation being one of its responsibilities)?
Yet peace should always be our primary goal. In fact, some of the harshest statesments Jesus will make in later teachings will be on the subject of conflict.
Does peace really work? In the late 800ís A.D. Guthrum led the pagan Danish forces against the Christian king, Alfred the Great. He almost succeeded in wiping out Christian England. In one final decisive battle, the Battle of Edington (May 6-12, 878 AD), though, Alfred defeated Guthrum. He had Guthrum totally in his power and could have slaughtered him in retaliation for all the evil Guthrum had brought upon the land. Instead, he led Guthrum to Christ for salvation, had him baptized, and even adopted him as his godson. Did Guthrum go along with this in order to save his own skin, or did he really convert to Christianity? Well, after Alfred released Guthrum, the Danes never attacked Christian England again as long as Guthrum lived.
Milton Cunningham once rightly remarked that if a church is experiencing trouble, then the deacons have probably not fulfilled their duty. If they have not resolved conflict within the church, it is because many times they are creating that conflict. Acts 6 was actually the scene in which the deacon body was created. What conflict was going on in that chapter (6:1)? (Hellenistic Jews were Jews who lived or were raised outside of the nation of Israel--they usually spoke Greek. The native Hebrews were Jews who lived and/or were raised in Israel--they usually spoke Hebrew/Aramaic.)
Before you answer the following question, you need to understand that the following seven names were all Greek names: "Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas." What were these 7 men supposed to do (Acts 6:1-5)?
In other words, on the basis of the fact that the ones complaining were the Greek-speaking Jews and the deacons who were to solve the problem all had Greek names, does it seem like the apostles took the complaints of the Greek-speaking Jews seriously, or did they accuse them of being complainers and look down upon them?
AND NOW FROM BONHOEFFER: From the Beatitudes
"The followers of Jesus have been called to peace. When he called them they found their peace, for he is their peace [his death on the cross creating peace between man and God]. But now they are told that they must not only have peace but ________________ it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. [DB will change his mind later after he comes to grips with the horrors of the concentration camps and the plight of the Jews.] In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to ____________ _______________ themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce all self-assertion, and quietly suffer in the face of all hatred and wrong. . . . But nowhere will that peace be more manifest than where they meet the wicked in peace and are ready to suffer at their hands." [Or, as in the case of the apostles who were all native Hebrews, they gave power to the complainers to resolve the issue.]