If I were to be graded on how well I represent Christ, I might, on my best days, be given a D. Grading on the curve, comparing myself to my heathen friends who sometimes cuss and don't read their Bibles, I might get a C.
But there is one place in scripture -- and regrettably it was of maximum importance to Jesus -- where I get an F-minus. The Beatitudes.
No matter how many times I read them in Matthew 5, I wince. Surely there's been some sort of Aramic/Hebrew/English translation discrepancy, wouldn't you agree? After all, who can possibly pass such a test?
"Blessed are the poor in spirit..." Are you conscious of your sins or are you too self-centered to care to do so? Do you count your assets as loss compared to what Jesus has to offer?
"Blessed are those who mourn..." Do you ache (cry) when you sin against a holy God and bring dishonor to His name?
"Blessed are the meek..." The Greek word for meek is "praus," referring to an animal that is trained and disciplined. Are you controlled by God in thought and deed?
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..." Do you seek ways to please the Lord instead of yourself? Do you desire a holy life that makes Jesus proud?
"Blessed are the merciful..." Do you sacrifice for those who are in need? Are you governed by a compassionate heart or a judgmental one?
"Blessed are the pure in heart..." Check your thoughts. Your motives. If they were exposed for all to review, would people see a Spirit-ruled life?
"Blessed are the peacemakers..." A peacemaker is not a doormat. Rather, he is one who endeavors to establish right relationships as opposed to finding secret pleasures in others' quarrels. Which are you?
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness..." Are you proud of being a born-again Christian, or do you keep that secret hidden for fear others will reject you?
The Beatitudes mirror who Jesus was and what He wants me to be, yet they are the antithesis of what society -- and even some churches -- encourage.
The attributes listed above paint a meek, humble sort, one who seeks to serve faithfully and represent Jesus to others without any self-aggrandizement. But it goes deeper than that.
One theologian summarized the Beatitudes in these words: "Blessed are the desperate."
Why? Because they, unlike those who seek self-sufficiency and comfort, are more likely to turn to God for help.
Until we are seeking desperately to be blessed according to what Jesus requires, we will all fall short of the glory of God.
Thank God our grade is not given on what we deserve but, rather, on who we are in Him, but that does not excuse our obligation to strive for the blessings Jesus exemplified and asked us to pursue.