FAMILY IT! — Wednesday Family Devotional — “Backwards Blessings”
I know we’re still in the middle of a vacation, but only two weeks after their return from Christmas break, every public school student will be blessed with a three-day weekend. On the third Monday in January, the US commemorates the birthday of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This man and minister did so much to alter the way our country looks at and relates to people of different races. He is certainly worth honoring for that reason alone. But I think part of what makes MLK notable is not only what he did and said, but how he did it and said it. He focused his entire approach on what we call the “non-violent protest.” Martin Luther King became the undeniable spokesperson for the idea that all people should be treated the same, no matter what their skin color. Now for many of you, that idea is a no-brainer, but in the 60’s when Dr. King was sharing his message, this idea was controversial, and in some places it was practically blasphemous. If you said all races should be treated equally, you’d likely get yourself thrown out of wherever you were…or worse, maybe just get something thrown at you. The natural response to that kind of action would be to throw something back. That’s how you win an argument or a battle, right? You get tough! But Dr. King stayed committed to the idea that this battle for equality could only be won if he stayed controlled, if he and others resisted the urge to fight back. It was a backwards idea that turned the world upside down. But it worked!
In week two of our Mountain5 series, we’re going to explore Jesus’ opening words in His Sermon on the Mount. It’s a sequence of eight “blessing” statements we now call the beatitudes. Go ahead and read them together in Matthew 5:1-12.
How do those blessings sound to you? If you’ve read the beatitudes before, the verses may seem perfectly normal, but ask a member of your family who is less familiar with them and I bet they’ll tell you the whole thing sounds backwards. And that’s good—because it is! You will be hard pressed to find a section in all of scripture that is as upside down as these principles Jesus lays out here. He tells us that the things we should strive for, the things that will bless us, are pretty much the exact opposite of every tenet you’ll find in every leadership book. These things make as much sense as a coach saying, “Blessed are the benchwarmers, for they will win the game.” Seriously, look at what Jesus says: Don’t claw your way to the top; be meek, and let others have the limelight. Ignore the “dog eat dog,” “take no prisoners” approach to success; be merciful toward others. Instead of hungering for power, Jesus says we should yearn for righteousness. Be a peacemaker, not a pot-stirrer. It’s ok to be persecuted, not popular. And in the middle of the Hollywood glitz and sleaze, find a way to stay pure of heart.
Right! It’s absolutely backwards, completely counter-cultural to everything we know, everything we’re used to in the world around us. It’s absolutely, completely…God.
We’ll dig deeper into the actual blessing statements on Sunday, but today I want to challenge you with this idea: are you ready to be as backwards as Jesus? As crazy as the beatitudes sound on first reading, it shouldn’t surprise us that the ways of our Creator appear backwards when looking through the world’s lens. A life committed to following God means a life committed to going up the down staircase. It means being willing to swim upstream against the flow of the people and friends around you. Will it be challenging? Yes. Will it be hard for others to understand or accept? Yes. Will there be a chance you might get something thrown at you? Yes. BUT…a life committed to following God also means a life the leads to the blessings Jesus mentions: comfort, filling, mercy, the kingdom of God, the name tag “Child of God,” and eyes that will see him face to face. Amazing, aren't they? And they’re yours, if you’re willing to live a little backwards.
Will you and your family commit together today that you will live life backwards, that you will embrace the beatitudes, so that you can follow Jesus into His blessedness?
Glorious God, thank you for your many blessings. Help us as we strive to be all that you call us to be, as we pursue a backwards life following your Son. May all that we do honor you! In Jesus’ Holy Name we pray, Amen.
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