Today, I want to just reflect on a quote I came across a few weeks ago, and begin to think about how it shapes our understanding not just of the Beatitudes, but of the world as a whole. Here it is:
I find this quote compelling because it offers a beautiful vision of the Kingdom of God.
Dallas Willard talks about the Kingdom of God in similar ways as Buechner does here: A kingdom is where a certain king’s will is done. We all have kingdoms. When what we want is done, it extends our kingdom. So the Kingdom of God is anywhere the will of God is done.
In our quote, Buechner is saying something similar. God’s will and desire for humanity is that we love each other, are true to each other, and take risks for each other. So anywhere we see that happening, we are seeing and experiencing the Kingdom of God.
But Buechner uses Beatitude language: God is “with” and “for” – this is blessing.
Maybe a way to reframe Buechner would be to say: Blessed are you when you love another, risk for another, or are true to another, for THIS is the Kingdom of God.
But what is most striking to me in this quote is “Wherever.”
We draw a lot of dividing lines as Christians. If we are honest, I think most of us read the Beatitudes as: “Blessed are Christians when they show mercy…”
Or perhaps we think somehow that Christians have a monopoly on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is only for Christians and can only be experienced by Christians.
But people like Buechner and Willard challenge this idea. They are trying to peel back the curtain a bit to help us see the bigness and beauty of God at work in ALL things and in ALL people.
And I think this is what Jesus is doing in the Beatitudes as well.
I have been talking and writing about them for a long time. Perhaps no other passage of Scripture has spoken to me and been a part of how I make sense of the world as the Beatitudes, so I have reflected a lot on them.
And for most of that time, here is how I thought they were structured:
“Poor in spirit” through “hunger and thirst”: Here is the way God’s kingdom really works. It is an upside down kingdom where you find God in all the wrong places.
Once you see and experience God’s Kingdom in this way, it changes how you live. So the Beatitudes takes a shift. So “merciful” through “peacemakers” teaches us how to better live into God’s kingdom reality.
Now, I haven’t given up on this idea entirely. I think there is a lot of merit to it. But the Beatitude language alongside the word “wherever” in the Buchner quote made me ask some new questions.
Remember the Beatitudes are an invitation to see God and the world in a whole new way. They are about finding God in places we do not expect.
Mercy is a difficult thing. It lays down the human need for justice. It requires compassion, empathy, humility, forgiveness, and love. Nothing is more risky, true, and loving towards another human being. So when we are merciful to another human being, we are walking the path of Jesus. We are doing God’s will. We are experiencing and advancing the Kingdom.
And as we do this, we are “blessed:” We experience the presence of God. Nothing is closer to the heart of God than mercy. In mercy we find God with and for us.
Perhaps what Jesus is saying is that because mercy is so important to how God designed the world, to who God is at the core, and to what it means to be human, that anytime and anywhere mercy is given, God is there alongside the mercy extending mercy as well.
And it not only says God is present when mercy is shown, but God is showing mercy to those who are merciful. Which I find beautifully compelling and interesting.
Wherever mercy is shown. And to whoever is showing mercy. There God is.
We live in a world filled with God. In this word God is constantly present, showing grace, and showing mercy. The Beatitudes call us to see the grace-bathed nature of the world, and to break down our ideas about how, when, where and with whom God works.
In fact, they are a reminder that truth and grace and beauty often show up in the most unlikely places.
I often wonder if the way we divide the world up not only keeps us from seeing God’s mercy in all things, but keeps us from being merciful ourselves.
The Beatitudes are an invitation to see God in all sorts of places. And most of those places are the places we least expect to find God. Maybe the blessing of the merciful is a call to celebrate and rejoice any time we see or experience the will and Kingdom of God being extended, no matter who is doing the extending.