This post is part of a series. Follow along by clicking here.
Do you assume people are naturally good or naturally evil? I suppose your response to a question like this might depend on your life experience. Believe it or not, according to my recent Google search, people are actually inherently good. This was determined by one specific writer after working with scientists who purposely put individuals through a variety of probing tests. You can read on this experiment further by clicking here.
This leads us to a second question: Why are people inherently good? Is it a matter of survival or is it driven by something else? If you are a Christian or a believer in the Bible you will likely believe it is the latter.
Scripture seems to paint a bit of a conflicting picture when it comes to this topic. Some Bible verses point out that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and it has been established that God is love (1 John 4:16). If God is love and we are made like God... we could argue that we are love as well. This would make us good as science states. Yet things aren't that simple. Despite being made in God's image, we also have all fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). We are made to be good, but according to God's standard, we aren't so good after all.
Because we were made to be good but also struggle to actually BE good, we are caught in a sort of limbo. The Bible plainly states that "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). We sympathize with those who are hurting, yet sometimes we are the people inflicting the pain. We lie for our own personal gain, and then later feel bad about it. What can we do about this? What characteristics do God's people actually need to have to be considered worthy?
In Matthew 5:1-11 we see the famous "Sermon on the Mount" unfold. The area we are going to specifically focus on is the list of traits Jesus tells us people who are "blessed" have. These are better known as The Beatitudes. These characteristics reveal some surprising attributes of the people who God holds dear to his heart. The 8 traits below might not be the usual things you would want to see in yourself. These aren't things you would choose to put on your job resume. You wouldn't tell your counselor, "I really want to see more persecution in my life!" or "Wow, I am so thankful I am insecure!" Yet the Bible says that we are blessed to have these things in our lives. The next time you experience a negative emotion, remind yourself that you are blessed because of it. Being "good" in God's eyes doesn't mean you or your life is perfect.
Beatitude #1: Insecurity
As we analyze this list we see that the first thing Jesus says is "blessed are the poor in spirit". I am not going to lie, it caught me off guard. Why would I be blessed for being insecure or discouraged? Today's society boasts of a courageous and confident lifestyle. Social Media tells us to flaunt what we have proudly. While it is certainly healthy and important for us to manage our insecurities, Jesus also says that we are blessed for having them. It is often through our insecurity that we are reminded of God's endless love for us. He treasures us even when we don't see our own worth.
Beatitude #2: Mourning
Have you lost someone who was important or dear to you? Did you know that your feelings of saddness are important to God? Jesus says "blessed are those who mourn". This doesn't mean God wants us to be constantly trapped in our saddness and misery of losing a loved one, but it is good for us to recognize our feelings. It is important to remind ourselves that we feel this way because we weren't originally created to die. Death, as painful and horrific as it is, keeps our eyes fixed on our permanent heavenly home rather than settling for earth's temporary comfort and livelihood. We would not need Jesus to return during his second coming if we already lived forever.
Beatitude #3: Meekness
Sometimes we wish we were more outspoken, bold, or assertive. I used to get very frustrated with my husband when we were on the road and someone cut us off. If I was driving and this happened, I would lay into the horn- but my husband rarely honks at anyone. Most people would probably tell him to stand up for himself or point out that the driver deserved to be honked at. Jesus says, "blessed are the meek in spirit". Sometimes it is good for us to speak up, but often it is better for us to withhold our anger or resentment. The next time you feel bad about not speaking your mind, take a moment and ask yourself, "Was it really necessary?" There is a good chance that you holding back was actually a blessing in disguise.
Beatitude #4: Justice
If you are witnessing what is taking place in the world both politically or otherwise, you likely feel upset. Although I have taken the time to advocate for peace and kindness amid issues such as BLM or Back the Blue, this should not diminsh the good aspects of your feelings desiring a change. Jesus says, "blessed are those who seek after righteousness". In other words, it is good for us to see the problems in the world and want to fix it. It is this passion for equality and fairness that can guide us to the instruction of the Bible. Jesus teaches us how to implement true righteousness. Jesus is the ultimate solution to earth's problems and it is important for us to recognize this.
Beatitude #5: Mercy
This might surprise you, but I am actually incredibly forgiving. It sounds like a good thing at first, but it has gotten me into a lot of trouble. For example, I once dated a very abusive dude and because I was so forgiving I kept taking him back even when he cheated on me etc. I would never advocate that you allow yourself to be abused like I was, but I will point out that my weakness is actually a strength in God's eyes (when utilized properly). Jesus says, "blessed are the merciful." The world teaches us to forgive but not forget... is this truly a merciful attitude? I will leave that debate for another time- the point is, it is good to give someone a second chance. It is good to accept a sincere apology. This does mean that sometimes we need to release toxic people from our lives, but we must be willing to forgive them. We can and should let go of the anger and resentment we harbor for someone who hurt us.
Beatitude #6: Purity
It wasn't cool to be a virgin when I was in high school- even though I went to a Christian school. If you weren't a virgin, you didn't mind telling people about it... and if you WERE a virgin, you lied and said you weren't. I hate sharing that but it was the truth. Maybe you can relate. It doesn't have to be sex- it can be something else. Maybe you don't watch certain movies, listen to certain music, or say certain words. The world mocks you for this, but Jesus says "blessed are the pure in heart". The next time you feel bad because your conscience won't allow you to go along with what your friends are doing...remember that your purity is something God cherishes. By the way, even if you have mistakes in your past it is never too late to start living a pure lifestyle from this point on. The Bible says "blessed are the pure in heart" but it doesn't put an age or a timeframe on it. Every day is a fresh start.
Beatitude #7: Peace
Again I am reminded of the culture of the world we are currently living in. A popular phrase right now is, "No justice, no peace!" yet Jesus says, "blessed are the peacemakers". People, especially Christians, are trying to twist this all up to fit their agenda, but I believe the Bible is clear. There was no justice for Jesus, yet there is still peace for all of us because of his sacrifice. When we have a choice between fighting for Jesus and being peaceful for Jesus... I would argue that we should choose to be peaceful. Choosing not to take sides on social media or say something that could be offensive to someone you love is not weakness. Romans 12:12 says, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all".
Beatitude #8: Persection
If we choose to be peaceful we may be persecuted. Persecution doesn't have to mean beheading or gas chambers- sometimes it means being bullied or outcast from your friend group. There are many ways the world can persecute us, but Jesus says not to worry because "blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness." When we do things based on what the Bible tells us is the right thing to do, we are in favor with God.
I will leave you with this thought:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4