The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6, verses 20-38 is called the Lukan Beatitudes. They are not as familiar as the Matthew Beatitudes, but they carry the same message: blessed are those who do these things: be pure in heart, be peacemakers, don’t judge others, be forgivers, love your enemies. T
his was always a difficult text for me to preach on, because, really, did I fulfill these beatitudes myself? How could I tell others to fulfill them?
Do these Beatitudes describe any of us? Can anyone truly claim to have kept the Beatitudes? Mahatma Gandhi used the Beatitudes to call others hypocrites who claimed to be Christians but did not keep the letter of the Beatitudes. So we despair and cry “woe is me, God surely condemns me for not keeping the Beatitudes”, right?
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, chapter 7, states he knows what is right and what he should be doing to please God, but in verse 15 he says: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” And verse 18: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
Does this sound a little like us today?
We may want to please God, to do what we know he wants us to do, but so often we do just the opposite. We say things we later wish we could take back; we treat someone in a way that leaves us feeling terrible. And then our conscience assails us: how can God ever love a person like me?
Paul continues, verse 22: “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
And when we are feeling wretched, that we did some stupid thing that hurt someone else, that we spoke words that should never have been uttered, we are told to turn our attention to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was perfect.
He never did or said any of those things that condemn our spirit. Yet this perfect God/Man went to the cross and died to pay the penalty for sin. He did not die for his own sin, because he had none to die for, but he died for my sins, he died for your sins, he paid the penalty we each of us deserve. For his sake God the Father has erased all our sins, he now declares each of us perfect, as if we never sinned, just as if we have kept the Beatitudes perfectly.
This knowledge of our being reconciled with God and all our sins being forgiven does not now mean we no longer have to worry about the Beatitudes, that we now can just go and do whatever we please, whether or not someone else is hurt in the process.
God does love us and has forgiven our sins, but he still calls us to be peacemakers, to love our enemies, to forgive, not to gossip or judge others. And knowing God does love us we will want to do those things that please him.
But I’m still not a perfect man, and I will fail at times. But when this happens I have God’s promise that trusting in Jesus Christ as my Lord and my Savior I know he has forgiven me and has accepted me as his beloved child. Knowing this we can then go forward resolving not to repeat again those sinful things we have done, yet knowing that sin lies at our doorstep and we will continue to sin until the day we are called from this world.
But through all this we hear God calling us to be of good cheer: through faith in Jesus Christ he has forgiven our sins and has promised us joy and happiness when we depart this sinful world and enter into his eternal rest in his heavenly kingdom.