The Beatitudes Aren't a Set of Rules

Updated: May 4

I was taught that the Beatitudes Jesus gave at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount were character traits that one should aspire to. To fit this into the traditional “sin is a behavior” church model, these character traits are what people should see in us, based on how we behave ourselves.

This would make the Beatitudes a really high standard. I mean, really high. The first time I read them, I stopped at number three and just gave up. “Welp,” I thought, “I am never going to be all of these things so I’m just going to skip down this chapter to something that I can do.” (Which, in Matthew 5, is very little!) Or, we try to be all of these things and count ourselves lucky if we are one or two of them for a couple of hours in the same day.

So how in the heck does Jesus expect us to be like this all of the time? That’s not really fair, now is it? We’re only human! I mean, really??

The secret is: the Beatitudes are not character traits. They are facets of love. Jesus is describing LOVE:
  • Connection

  • Truth

  • Aliveness

Each of these facets has an active and a passive element.

  • The active element of connection is the vulnerability/compassion loop. The passive element of connection is trusting God, which results in rest.

  • The active element of truth is asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom. The passive element of truth is self-awareness, which results in mercy.

  • The active element of aliveness is creating, which is achieved through grief. The passive element of aliveness is feeling fully alive by fully feeling emotions.

Each facet requires a spiritual skill to achieve.These facets of love, and the spiritual skills needed to allow them to flow, are shown visually on the love/evil wheel.

Why does he say, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3 and 5:10) at both the beginning and the end of the Beatitudes? Because these spiritual growth steps will be followed by his Chosen, the elect, the people whose will has already determined that they will eventually return to their Creator. Once we make the turn, once our Will desires connection with others and connection with god, then we are on this path and He begins to heal you (Mark 4:12). We may not accomplish all of the spiritual growth steps in this lifetime, but we will accomplish them all eventually. We will eventually be One with Jesus and God the Father.

When we begin to spiritually grow, the first process we must go through is the killing of our false self. The first three Beatitudes involve opening up the active elements of the three facets of love to prepare us for this.

“Poor in spirit” refers to a person who is willing to be “weak.” A strong-willed person is strong, independent, and does not need anybody else. A “weak-willed” person is the opposite of this: a person who needs others, who depends on others, and who is able to show compassion to others.

“Those who mourn” refers to people who are willing to grieve. Grief can take the form of weeping (sadness) and/or anger. Put simply, grief is admitting that we will never be repaid for what we have lost or invested. As long as we hang onto the hope of repayment, there is no room for God to come in and heal us. We are stuck in the past, stuck in unforgiveness, stuck in trying to create a scenario that is according to our will, one that will bring about what we consider to be justice. Mourning is the opposite of self-will. Mourning indicates a willingness to give up what we want. Fully feeling the emotion of grief, in the forms of sadness and/or anger, is the second spiritual skill.

“The meek” is a person who admits that he does not have all of the answers. This is a person who is humble, not proud, who recognizes that his wisdom is lacking, that he does not know everything, and he wants to learn the Truth. This spiritual skill is directly asking the Holy Spirit to reveal Truth and expecting an answer!

After the false self is killed, the next step is to thirst for righteousness. The next Beatitude addresses the Will. What does the Will desire? Simply freedom from the bonds of the false self? Or does it desire something more? Does the Will desire something that is fundamentally unselfish and giving? Something that is outside self-will?

The more advanced we get in spiritual growth, the more Truth will be revealed to us. Truth results in power. The more Truth we know, the more powerful we will become. This power cannot be misused. Therefore, we must crave being good (righteous) more than anything; it must be the primary driver in our spiritual growth, from this point forward, in order for us to be trusted with more Truth.

The hunger for righteousness is an overriding desire to show love as perfectly as possible. At this level of growth, it is no longer good enough to do the “right thing.” We want to feel the right thing. We want the behavior to be effortless because it comes from correct thinking and correct feeling.

This spiritual skill means that we don’t want to show love acceptably. We want to show it perfectly. Nothing less will do. This thirst will drive us to hold ourselves to a very high standard, which is necessary at this level because the “big stuff” has already been fixed. Now it’s the little stuff, the incrementally better thoughts and feelings, that require our focus to improve. The stakes are much higher here. A small mistake at this level has wide-ranging repercussions.

Righteousness is not about behaving well, although that is a result of it. Righteousness is showing love perfectly.
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It took me three years to realize that I am a fallen creature. I have been struggling and groping my way back to the Light. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way....

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