While some people may view the Beatitudes in Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" to be similar to proverbs, Rick Thompson told Oklahoma Baptist University students he perceives them to be more about what it means to be a Christian. Thompson, who serves as senior pastor of Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, shared his perspective during OBU's weekly chapel service Wednesday, Sept. 23.
"It's important for us to understand the dynamics of what it actually means to be a Christian," he said. "Very often in the Gospels, Jesus would describe the Christian faith as being like entering into a kingdom. That's what he's doing in this particular passage."
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The familiar, poetic passages beginning with "Blessed are the poor in spirit," can be found in Matthew 5:1-10. Thompson said these Scriptures deal specifically with what it means to enter the kingdom of God - what it means to be a Christian.
"I think the reason people get confused about what it means to be a Christian is because they focus on the form of Christianity and not the substance of Christianity," Thompson said. "In this passage, Jesus in essence is saying if you're a part of my kingdom - if you truly are a Christian - these are the kinds of things that are going to be in place."
Thompson contended the first beatitude, which reads, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs," refers to a person who realizes they have a spiritual need that can only be met through Jesus Christ. This is the first step toward becoming a Christian, he said.
"You and I have to see that the problems in our lives are way beyond our ability to solve," he said. "Popular culture teaches that if you just have the right attitude, that you can do whatever you want to do, that you should just do away with those nagging thoughts you have inside. But what Jesus is saying in this beatitude is that you should listen to your nagging thoughts."
Thompson said the second beatitude, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," refers to a person becoming aware of sin in his or her life.
"All the struggles we have in this life are merely the symptoms of a deeper problem we have in life," he said, referring to the problem of sin. "The drive of the human spirit to deny our problems is very deep. ... Our problem is that we want to do it on our own. And spiritual mourning is repenting of that sin."
The third beatitude reads, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." Thompson noted that meekness does not equal weakness; instead, meekness can be defined as power under control. He emphasized that Christian faith is based not on the power of a human individual, but on the power of what Jesus Christ already has done on a person's behalf.
Thompson's message followed the chapter about "The Beatitudes" in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, "The Cost of Discipleship." The book is the foundation of the year's chapel theme, "Costly Illumination: Counting Everything Loss in Light of the Surpassing Worth of Knowing Christ."