“I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.” – Francis of Assisi, 12th century
Dear Members and Friends,
The past Sunday I presented the idea that the Beatitudes of Jesus which we find in Matthew 5:3-12 are actual guidelines for reality, especially for those of us who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus. I shared some thoughts from Kurt Vonnegut who was pointing out how many Christians constantly lobby for the Ten Commandments to be posted in public spaces, but never, ever ask for the Beatitudes to be so posted.
Let me clarify that in sharing that observation I am not trashing the Ten Commandments. They are foundational for the faith of Moses, and by extension also for the faith of Jesus. Richard Rohr teaches that “the Ten Commandments are about creating social order (a good thing).” In this regard he points out “Obedience to the Ten Commandments does give us the necessary impulse control and containment we need to get started, which is a foundational need in the first half of life.”
But in the Beatitudes Jesus lays out the guidelines for a fuller, richer, more blessed life as God envisions it for humanity. Rohr points out the way the Beatitudes were the guidelines which Francis of Assisi followed on his path of love. Some of Richard Rohr’s thoughts about the foundational nature of the Beatitudes are:
True growth in holiness is a growth in willingness to love and be loved and a surrendering of our willfulness, even holy willfulness (which is still “all about me”).
… the eight Beatitudes of Jesus are all about incorporating what seems like disorder, which is a very different level of consciousness. With the Beatitudes, there is no social or ego payoff for the false self. … The Beatitudes, however, reveal a world of pure grace and abundance,…
Doing anything and everything solely for God is certainly the most purifying plan for happiness I can imagine. It changes the entire nature of human interaction and eliminates most conflict.
This is the power of grace to transform lives. What Jesus teaches is that there is no reason to be religious or to love God except “to love much the one who has loved us much,” as Francis said. We don’t love God to get God to love us. Rather we love God precisely because God has first loved us. As you move through your daily life, pause from time to time to ask yourself, “Am I doing this solely for God? Am I treating this person this way as God would wish me to treat this person? Am I seeking this because I know it will please God or because it will please me?” As you do you will move closer to loving God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida