Sermon on the Mount is one of the well-known discourses of the Lord Jesus Christ that has touched many lives. In it, He outlines the true lifestyle of a person who lives under the Lordship of Christ. The world may laugh at some of the principles found here. Yet no one will deny the fact that here we have an ideal way of life that can make everyone glad.
No wonder, Mr. M. K. Gandhi of India tried to adopt some of the teachings the Lord Jesus presented here. Though he became ‘a mahatma’, his writings prove that he could not follow Christ. The reason is, without yielding to the Lord Jesus Christ no one can follow these words in reality.
The Lord begins with the right Christian attitude that makes one happy and blessed. In fact, these are the fundamental characteristics of a Christian. Each feature leads to the other in a progressive manner.
1. Poor in Spirit. Matt 5:3
It is here we ought to begin. One needs to be conscious of his/her sinfulness and poor state before the Lord. There are two kinds of poor in the New Testament:
a. Poor yet able to give; like the widow in Luke 21:2,
b. Poor who had absolutely nothing; like Lazarus who had to beg for a living. Luke 16:20.
The Lord Jesus refers to the feelings of the begging poor here. This should be the outlook of a person who approaches the Lord. It is not just an external show of words or deeds, but an internal attitude in our spirit caused by the true realization of our utter spiritual bankruptcy in the presence of God. An attitude of arrogance and haughtiness will achieve nothing in His presence. Luke 18: 9 – 14.
2. Mourn over sins. Matt 5:4
Realization of sinfulness leads to the next natural step: weeping. It’s not just a pain over the shame and loss that our sins brought about, but the deepest and heart-felt grief as in the time of a funeral.
This is godly sorrow, associated with repentance that leads to the divine touch and comfort within our hearts, 2 Cori. 7:10, Isa. 6:5. The Scripture gives us plenty of examples for such sorrow over sin that results in heavenly intervention.
3. Meekness: power under control. Matt 5:5
Both the above experiences lead to the next condition, that is, gentleness. It is not just a quiet and helpless disposition. It’s about the powerful and the strong willingly submitting to the Lord and His people. Such ones refuse to show authority or strength. They are not interested in arguments either. They even forfeit their legitimate rights in order to uphold the glory of God.
4. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Matt 5:6
The next attitude a Christian ought to maintain is the intense craving for divine nature and quality in one’s life. Awareness of our poor spiritual state forces us to humbly seek the help of the Lord to live like Christ. It should be the uttermost desire in life. And the Lord promises that He will satisfy such ones without fail.
5. Merciful to one another. Matt 5:7
The first four attitudes had to do with our relation with God in the innermost being. Now, the next four refer to the outcome of this mindset in our external dealings. Being merciful has two ideas:
a. Willingness to hold back punishment even though one deserves it.
b. Being compassionate to the helpless and needy.
Both speaks of our attitude to others who are vulnerable, fallen or in difficulty. A Christian who is already aware of his own sad state and living with all humility will never be rude to others whatever may be the reason. He will be kind and tender-hearted towards all in their needs and troubles.
6. Purity in heart. Matt 5: 8
Most religious devotees are always careful to maintain external purity. They strictly follow the various rituals and other practices. But seldom have they considered the reality inside. It was to such people the Lord said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” Matt. 23:27.
However, a true believer will be known for purity in heart, which is the centre of emotion and will. Our minds and motives must be clear in all our dealings. A hidden agenda and ulterior intentions are foreign to a Christian. Without this internal holiness, no one can enjoy divine fellowship, Psa. 24: 3, 4; Heb. 12:14.
7. Passion for peace and reconciliation. Matt. 5:9
Another characteristic of a child of God is the earnest interest and effort to see peace among men. They are not just peaceful people or peace-lovers, which is well and good. But they also do their best to see that there is peace between one another. The absence of harmony and understanding disturb them so much that they will do everything to bring about peace.
How is it possible? It’s achievable only by the power of the gospel of peace, Cf. 2 Cori. 5:18; Rom. 10:15; Eph. 2:14. As long as one refuses to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ who is our peace and be reconciled to God, they cannot really enjoy peace within themselves and with one another. So, peacemakers are primarily those who present the Prince of Peace and His gospel.
8. Patiently suffering for righteousness. Matt. 5:10, 11
All the above characteristics are incompatible with the world standards. For happiness and blessings worldly people find other criteria. This mismatch between the standard of the world and the standard of a Christian leads to untold difficulties. Hatred, opposition and attack in various ways are all part of the Church from the days of our Saviour, John 15: 18ff.
Our stand for a righteous life and our association with the Lord Jesus Christ disturb the wicked one and his agents. The natural outcome is persecution in different forms. A true believer will suffer all such mistreatment quietly, patiently and even gladly.
All these eight traits are unique to a child of God who is living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. For, in Him alone we can experience and exhibit such qualities. Secular people may appreciate these attributes as valuable and emulative, but they may conveniently forget or even avoid the truth that only in the Lord Jesus Christ such a life is possible.
Christian Joy in the midst of trials
Remember, as Christians, we ought to have these traits as our distinguishing features, all the days of our life. Not just during the beginning of our Christian life or on some selective days. Failure in this aspect will take away our joy and testimony. Consequently, we will also miss the benefits and rewards promised along with these beatitudes.
Let us examine our daily life in the light of these words of our blessed Lord, and yield to Him afresh that we may have these attitudes truly and practically. And thus experience the benefits and blessings the Lord Jesus described here.