That’s the title that Dallas Willard gives in his book The Divine Conspiracy, which is pretty much the best book I ever read. It is particularly relevant to the text given in this week’s lectionary where Jesus gives us The Beatitudes.
In last week’s reading (Matthew 4:12-23) Jesus announced the kingdom was at hand, a statement that cannot be separated from this week’s text; hence the choice of graphic, which I created a little while ago. The Beatitudes are all about the breaking in of the rule of heaven on earth.
The thing is that the Beatitudes are often misunderstood as some kind of list of values we have to live up to in order to be blessed. Willard gives a refreshingly different view that recovers the startling proclamation of the good news in these words.
“Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of ‘religion’ – when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them” – the paraphrase Willard gives to the first beatitude.
Willard provides a corrective to the way in which the beatitudes have often been interpreted as a list of states to which people must attain in order to be blessed. But… “Those poor in spirit are called ‘blessed’ by Jesus, not because they are in a meritorious condition, but because, precisely in spite of and in the midst of their ever so deplorable condition, the rule of the heavens has moved redemptively upon and through them by the grace of Christ”
Willard moves through each of the beatitudes in turn applying this corrective that recovers the beatitudes for what they were meant to be – an “ecstatic pronouncement of the gospel“.
“The Beatitudes simply cannot be ‘good news’ if they are understood as a set of ‘how-tos’ for achieving blessedness. They would then only amount to a new legalism. They would not serve to throw open the kingdom – anything but… They serve to underline Jesus’ fundamental message – the free availability of God’s rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself, the person now loose in the world among us”
So looks like an opportunity to preach the real good news this week…
Download the Heaven on Earth Wallpaper for your desktop (right click – Save As..)