Jill had lived the last few years in a private hell of her own making. All the memories and abuse from life had led her there. It was dark, cold, and damp in her private cell. But the cell was only in her mind. Jill had allowed others to make decisions for her, decisions that had made this trap into a prison. “Today is a new day, and things are going to change!” Jill said to herself. She had determined that today was the day that she would stand up for herself, this was her life and not someone else’s. She was going to walk out into the sun and shout for joy! No more darkness, no more cold, and she was going to move some place new and start over. Someone had asked her a few weeks ago why she punished herself, and what made her think she deserved it. She had walked away quietly crying to herself. Later that night she asked herself “why,” and took a look deep inside herself looking for the answer to that question. Looking closely there wasn’t a reason. She hadn’t done anything that required any kind of punishment, let alone deserving of the jail cell she had built and lived in. She found a magic inside herself pulling the bright energy from the sun outside the small window at the top of her wall. All that energy came to live inside her changing her and helping her to break free of her prison. She had just enough energy built up to blast her way out. With a joy she didn’t know was possible the wall crumbled and she walked out and was greeted by the small group of people who had been praying for this day for many years. Tears of joy and laughter greeted her as she began her new life in the sun.
Matthew 5:10New International Version (NIV)
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Many people think this verse means to be persecuted because of their Christian faith, but that is not is not what it really means. To fully understand this verse you need to first understand that the word Jesus uses here mean to righteousness. The word he uses is “dikaiosynē” pronounced, “dē-kī-o-sü’-nā.” It means: in a broad sense: the state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God
- the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God
- integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting
- in a narrower sense, justice or the virtue which gives each his due.
It means living moral rightness, tolerance, and love. Living the life that Christ gave his life for so we could attain that acceptance by God. Whether you believe in original sin or original blessing, we all sin, we are all incapable of truly being righteous without Christ’s gift of salvation. To truly be accepted by God, we need to deal with the wrongness in our lives – now I’m talking conscious and unconscious sins and transgressions. Many times we don’t know or recognize when we have hurt someone whether it’s someone we know or don’t know. It is the example and reflection of our lack of love, tolerance and caring for everyone around us. It’s our natural response to judge and criticize everything in or around our lives, even if we don’t know – mostly don’t know – why someone is the way they are. Our need to make everyone fit in our box of what we think is moral rightness.
So, what does moral rightness look like besides just finding ourselves acceptable to God. It is walking in the lifestyle of the Fruit of the Spirit and the principles Jesus taught and the example he gave us. Jesus was sent to save every human being on the planet, he wouldn’t condemn someone out of hand because of his world views, he would listen, question, and then lovingly correct or help them understand God’s view. It’s the way Christ wants us all to live. There is freedom in this way of life. No longer are we concerned with being critical or judgmental, we are concerned with giving another person real unconditional love.
Why does this lifestyle attract persecution? We are all reflections or mirrors that let other people see that there are things in their life that hinder them from living a true life of freedom, and that is not pleasant. It is a reminder that they are not what they could be. This causes anger, and anger turns to hatred, that turns to tormenting the person that is making them feel bad about themselves. It goes back to the splinter in your brother’s eye when there is a plank in your own.
Now, there are many ways that we can be persecuted from shunning, to segregation, to being physically threatened or beaten or killed. No one is immune to persecution, we all have or will experience this probably more than once in our lives. And there is no avoiding it.
How do we come out on top of persecution? We realize that it is not necessarily us that is causing the anger being wrought on us, it is the self anger of the other person giving the persecution. We are just reflecting how they wish the could be, and haven’t figured out how to attain what we have. Jesus’ solution to this is to pray for those who persecute you, that they would become willing to see and hear what God has been trying to tell them about how He wants them to be – loving vessels that He can work through.
This is by no means easy. It’s probably the hardest thing for humans to do. Our human nature says to hit back – make the other person hurt as badly as they are hurting you. We need to come to the realization that the other person is hurting far more than the abuse they are giving us. It is remarkably like a wounded animal being cornered. So, live your life in compassion for these hurting people and continue setting your righteous example – there is no telling who will be touched and healed by your lifestyle of righteousness.
NIV from www.BibleGateway.com
Matthew 5:8 (NIV)
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
First, I want to say, “Thank you for your patience.” It has been a crazy couple of months with holidays and my 50th birthday. I have had a lot of attitude changes over the last few months. For those who deal with mental and physical illness, and not really liking who they are, it has been life changing. I have come to a place where I may not be feeling my best, but I have decided to truly enjoy my life and enjoy being a woman for the first time in my life. I have several men in my life, who have helped me see the beauty I hold and haven’t seen for myself. I have always felt that being a girl/woman has been a disadvantage growing up and just came to a realization that I have been wrong for 50 years. Being a woman is not a disadvantage it is the power of showing the tender side of God and the beauty of creation.
So, what does this have to do with our passage for the week? It comes down to the meaning of purity and the purity of our hearts. We think of the surface meaning of purity as being clean, of not having a mixing of anything making us unacceptable. Like being 100% German, Scandinavian, Indian, French or whatever. We become so hung up on purebred that we forget that there is a purity of spirit and conscience that has nothing to do with our physical makeup.
The Greek word for purity in our passage is katharos it means what we believe about what it means to be pure but it has deeper meaning. It means to be ‘fit to bear fruit,’ containing nothing forbidden, free from corruption, guilt or sin. This is a cleanliness of mind and spirit- a renewal of innocence within our lives. We get the English word, ‘catharsis,’ which is the means by which we can become pure in mind and spirit. It is the process that is used to get rid of the dirt, mud, and grime that life and experience can throw at us to make us unlovable not only to ourselves, but to others. It is also the process of sanctification to make us presentable to a Holy and Righteous God. It also makes us more presentable to ourselves and others in our lives.
There are many ways to activate catharsis in our lives, but to begin we need to see that unloveliness live in our lives, have the courage to see that we have allowed this dirt and grime in our lives, realize the need to change, and have the courage to go after the sanctification that we need, want, and desire. Unfortunately, there is no one way that works for everyone. Each person needs to come to a place where they are ready to change and find the way that works for them. Some will need professional help, some will need spiritual guidance, and others may just stumble on their answers in the eyes of someone special.
I have a friend that has really had an influence on this change and has kicked in my ‘want to.’ His motto is “I am just living the life.” Meaning, at this point he is enjoying being single. I have taken that motto to heart and changed it to ‘Live Life, Don’t! Sit on the Bench of Life.’ He and my male roommates are helping me see the beauty I hold and I am coming to accept that beauty. I am worth being around and it’s okay to have fun and I don’t have to feel guilty that I am not serving someone else or being productive.
I am also exploring other religious point of views, thanks to my friend, Mark. My conclusion so far is that there is a commonality among the belief systems I have looked at; and it comes down to living out the fruit of the Spirit in a real and practical way. It’s not about religion it is about purity of conscience and how we view God, ourselves, other people, and creation.
This is purity – cleaning our minds, hearts, and spirits – walking in the reality of a pure conscience, loving not only God, but ourselves; and allowing freedom to release us from the prisons we have created for ourselves and others.
Lord God, I pray that those who read these words will see the beauty that you created in them and give them the freedom that your purity can give them. Amen.
The References I used are:
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)
First of all we are talking about ”Agape” love this means to love with affection, good will, benevolence, brotherly love; we could say that this is love that goes beyond our human understanding. The way I learned it years ago is that this is unconditional love. Verse 16 says that it is love that we can rely on and not have to doubt. I know that many who read this have experienced the human kind of love that can’t be trusted or relied on, I have too; but that is not to mean we can’t move beyond our experiences. God has unconditional love for us – there is nothing we can do, believe, or think – that can take that unconditional love away from us. God knows the human condition and limitations that we all face and provided the redemption we needed to learn His way of loving.
Continuing on, the simple phrase God is “agape” love. God is affection, good will, benevolence, and brotherly love. The kind of love everyone can rely on. Going further, we find that we are to live in “agape” love. This is hard for us lowly human beings we are so filled with unlove or false love that many don’t realize they are not living in love. How many times have you heard an unbeliever say that they want nothing to do with the church because it’s filled with hypocrites? We all have heard that. It’s because so many within the church don’t really live love they live tradition or religion. Everyone goes through times when they are going through the proverbial motions of faith and love but not really giving it their full attention. We think, “Oh, God knows I’m not perfect, why should I try so hard?”
Love is made complete or accomplished – add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full. Love is made complete when it is completely full – I would say overflowing to everyone around us. In character it means to consecrate, fulfill, to make perfect. This is why love refines us to be the very best we can be for ourselves and for those around us.
Love gives us confidence – ultimately, for the day of judgement, but also to be brave and bold to move forward in faith and love. I have a tremendous fear of public speaking and singing in front of others. Yes, those who know me well know I can get very prideful and this fear keeps that in check but it also keeps me from being the vessel God needs me to be to touch the lives of others. However, I still have fear, but when I walk in love I become confident in my abilities and gifts. I also know that I fall tragically short on living agape love toward God when I choose to actively sin even when I know this is wrong, but I have confidence that God understands this and loves me anyway. This gives me the confidence to come before the Holy throne of God with my requests and be fearless in the sight of my failures and His judgement.
“In this world we are Jesus.” We (believers) know we may be the only Jesus someone sees in their lives. This is the call of the Lord to us to go into the world and make believers of others and teach them to carry on the mission to be Jesus to those around them. We can’t do this if we don’t love in the unconditional way of agape love.
So, we come to the focus of this writing – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (v. 18) The word fear is the Greek word “phobos” and it means fear, dread, and terror, exceedingly afraid. To get a real feel for what this is take the thing you are most afraid of and multiply that by 100% then you will have an idea what this really means. But agape love takes away that great fear and replaces it with confidence and assurance that you will be victorious over the things you are terrified of. Fear has to do with punishment – “I did something wrong,” ”I am a failure,” …..fill in what it is that you are afraid to be punished for. Being fearful is not condemnation it just means we need to practice agape with ourselves as well as others. Truly, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to being unloving – it is to ourselves we are most unloving with.
In conclusion, “We love because He first loved us.” (v.19) We can only walk in agape because God loved us first and most. He provided a way for us to learn agape love through Jesus and His sacrifice to give us the confidence we can only have in Jesus and agape love.
Bible verses came from the NIV on https://www.biblegateway.com/