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the anti-beatitudes

All Christians must, at some point, do serious business with the Sermon on the Mount.

It is the penultimate discourse of Jesus, his magnum opus within the Gospels. If there was a handbook on Christian living, the Sermon on the Mount would probably be it.

One topic major topic present in the Sermon on the Mount is that of peace and nonviolence. This is, unfortunately, one of the aspects of the Sermon that Christians often ignore. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. called the Sermon on the Mount the greatest manifesto of nonviolence ever written, yet so many Christians feel free to support war and violence.

When you open Matthew 5 to experience Jesus’ stunning sermon you are first greeted with the Beatitudes. These eight statements are a blueprint for the values of the kingdom of God as preached by Jesus (cf. Matt 4:17). These values are taught by Jesus over-against the dominating values of his day; violence, greed, pride etc.

Things have not changed in our time. The values of our culture are antithetical to the Beatitudes taught by Jesus. This is perhaps nowhere more obvious that in our penchant for war and violence. Read the rest of this entry

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“god bless you!”: what is blessing?

When something becomes customary in a culture, such as theĀ recitationĀ of the phrase “(God) bless you!” following a sneeze, it often happens that the meaning of that custom is lost in habit.

So what does it mean to be “blessed” in a biblical sense?

Some people understand it to mean something like good fortune.

Others see blessing as referring to material wealth, as in some strands of contemporary Christianity.

Some Christians think blessing refers to God’s favour, and this can be understood in a great number of ways (including material wealth as above).

For others blessing is almost a physical thing to be passed on (as with some understandings of the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau).

I have constantly wondered what blessing is. Read the rest of this entry

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