Jesus’ beatitudes are the heart of his most famous sermon – The Sermon on the Mount.
The eight beatitudes he preached are found in Matthew 5.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.
Jesus then says you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
As someone who does not feel like something as purifying and essential as salt or as illuminating and luminescent as light most weeks, I often wonder if He is not really speaking to me.
Surely he means people who are slow to anger…..full of patience and grace…….those that are humble and selfless, right?? He doesn’t mean someone like me who fails at more than one of these areas daily. Those that don’t yell at their kids and always give dollars to the homeless folks at the stoplight – THEY are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. These are a superior class of people in Jesus’ eyes, nothing like myself.
Is God really talking to me??
But….if you really soak in the words of the Sermon of the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew to try and discover who this special class of awesome, salty, light bearing people were you find out that there really wasn’t anything more special about them….we are those people, us…the every day woman who struggles with sin, temptation, pride, vanity and more.
When Jesus preached the beatitudes he was speaking to the sick, those afflicted with various pains and diseases, those battling demons, he cured the epileptics and paralytics, he cured them all and spoke these beatitudes to them all.
It is so easy for us to default to hearing Jesus’ sermon on the mount as pure exhortation. As though he is giving us a list of things we should try to be so we CAN BE BLESSED – be meeker, be poorer, and mournier. If you can be more of those things then you will meet the conditions of earning Jesus’ blessing. But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine Jesus exhorting a crowd of people filled with demons, falling to temptations, and sick and poor to be meeker. He wasn’t telling them what to try and become. He was telling them you are blessed and you are the salt of the earth and light of the world. This was his special class of people to whom he preached.
I mean there were probably people in the crowd who totally have their crap together. People who had solid relationships, a marriage without arguing, children who obey happily, people who have paid off all of their debt and always backup their hard drives. People who had nothing they felt shame or guilt about and who didn’t have terrible secrets and knew exactly what they were doing. Of course, its possible those people were in the crowd. But that’s not who we are told are those coming to Jesus.
The ones we are told were coming to Jesus, the ones presumably to who he was preaching were described as the sick, those who were in pain, who fought with demons, who were broken and addicted and late on their back taxes. Those with more than one ex-wife or husband and who watch too much TV and think that maybe just one more painkiller might be a good idea. In other words, they were people standing in the need of God. And standing in the need of God is standing in the way of blessedness in a way that having it all together never is.
You don’t have to have it all together.
Have you ever met someone that talked about how they had given up church because church seemed to be a place that only well people went? Have you ever met someone that just felt they had to have it all together before they could step foot in a church? I have.
And what’s crazy about that is it’s not who came to Jesus when Jesus was walking the earth. It’s just who we at some point decided Jesus wanted us to be after he’d left.
These people, the wretched ones left behind in the last verses of chapter 4, they follow Jesus, in a way that the least, the last, the lost, the lonely and the broken have followed him ever since, and to them he gives a blessing.
The poor, those who mourn and are meek….,..Jesus gives them a blessing saying to them “You are blessed”, and then right after that he says “You are the salt and the light of the earth.”
To the broken and hurting he gives a blessing and then he says they are of the Earth, that they are earth and breath of God. Like in Genesis 2:7, God breathed into the dust of the Earth and created humanity.
To the flawed and sick and crippled he says your bodies are created wonders filled with light. The salt in your tears and in your sweat is a reminder that you were created from dust and the very breath of God.
Let your light shine anyways.
I thought before I could be the light of the world and let my light so shine before men, I’d have to be whole, be strong, be perfect. That special class of people I will never belong to.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. So it is exactly at our points of weakness, of pain, of brokenness, of insufficiency that force us, like those who originally followed Jesus, to stand in the need of God. To stand in the need of the true light.
So perhaps those cracks…made from bad choices, from anxiety and depression, from addiction, from struggle and remorse. Maybe those cracks are what let’s the light of God’s love in. And maybe those same cracks are also how the light gets out.
You are the salt and the light.
We should not miss the fact that Jesus does not say “here are the conditions you must meet to be the salt of the Earth.” He does not say here are the standards of wholeness you must fulfill in order to be the light for the world.
He looks out into the crowd of people in pain, people who have been broken open – those cracks that let in and let out the light, who have the salt of sweat and tears on their broken bodies, and says
You ARE salt.
You are light.
You have that, which is of God, within you. The God whose light scatters the darkness.
Your imperfect and beautiful bodies are made of chemicals with holiness shining in it…you are made of dust and the very breath of God.
In other words, you are a broken woman and Jesus trusts you. Don’t wait until you feel as though you have met the conditions of being holy. Trust that Jesus knows what he is doing and that you already are salt and light and love and grace.
Don’t try to be it, know that you already are it.