Shutting Out the World? — Adam’s Angle

If you want to get depressed in a snap, just watch the evening news. The world bends over backward to teach the next generation to recycle, but hisses and shrieks if you suggest that abortion is murder, that homosexuality is sin, or that evolution is a lie.

But what can one Christian do? The evil is so great. Maybe you should just run for cover and shield yourself from the evil outside.

Or maybe you should hear what Jesus has to say in the Beatitudes. His message? Don’t let your frustration with evil in the world shut you down; let it stir you up.

Whose Side Are You On?

Strangely enough, Jesus didn’t start out the Sermon on the Mount by saying something like “Cranky are the poor in spirit. . .” or “Totally miffed are those who mourn. . .” although He could have. After all, the mob who flocked to hear him had a right to be upset. Violence, pride and sleaze were the currencies of the day. Living as a godly minority in a culture of injustice could really wear you out. But Jesus chose an odd way to start his message: “Blessed.”

Blessed is not a word we use too much outside of Christian circles. It means happy, or, in this case, encouraged. The things that were weighing these people down — their hunger and thirst for righteousness and their distress over the lack of mercy and peace — were the very things that should be encouraging them. But was that just crazy talk, or did Jesus have a point?

You’d better believe He did. One reason to be blessed in the face of an evil and oppressive world is that it shows you whose side you’re on: God’s. Jesus starts the Beatitudes with this thought: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In other words, does the typical stuff in this world leave you dry and empty? Be glad! You have something far better in belonging to God and his kingdom. Our angst with the way the world is shows to Whom we belong.

Another reason to be blessed is that things will work out in the end for those who belong to God. With each of the Beatitudes, there is a promise. Mourners will be comforted. The meek will inherit the earth. Those who hunger for righteousness will be filled. The merciful will be shown mercy. The pure in heart will see God. Peacemakers will be called sons of God. Those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake will have great rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:3-11).

Why should you be happy? Because you’re on God’s team. Even though we’re still in the midst of the battle, this life isn’t the end of the story. He wins! And if we stand with Him, we share in that wonderful victory.

Facing the Music

As you might expect, Jesus’ pep talk wasn’t without a purpose. He didn’t want to merely encourage his disheartened disciples so they could sleep well at night; he wanted them to get back into the fray. Immediately following the Beatitudes, Jesus continues the Sermon on the Mount by telling them of their purpose: they were to be the salt and the light of the earth.

In Jesus’ day, salt was used to keep meat from rotting. When Jesus was calling his disciples the salt of the earth, he was reminding them of part of their purpose: to preserve.

In case you haven’t noticed, our culture is kind of like meat that’s in danger of rotting. Yes, you’re different from the world because you belong to Jesus. Don’t let your voice get drowned out in an ocean of political correctness — that’s what Jesus meant when he warned us about losing our saltiness (Matthew 5:13). We don’t need to run from our culture or become like our culture, we need to stand out for Jesus and for His righteousness to keep this world from going off the deep end.

Likewise, we’re the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). How humbling it is to hear Jesus call us that because He is the (capital L) Light of the world (John 8:12). Light exposes darkness. More than that, as we stand up for God’s righteousness, it will draw people to God: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Of course, the danger with the light is that it could get hidden under a bowl if we let it. As you and I face the evil in the world, we shouldn’t let it scare us away or discourage us. Instead, we should be encouraged that we feel God’s pain for this world because it shows that we are His.

We know that good things are coming, so we need to get out there in that decaying, dark world to salt and shine for Him. Don’t let that evil shut you down, let it stir you up.

— Adam Pivec
5/4/08