Thursday, January 26, 2017

Character Traits of Disciples of Jesus Christ

If you could make a list describing what you thought a Christian should be like, what would be on your list?  We all make judgments about others in which we determine whether or not they are Christians.  We size them up and decide that certain characteristics either include or exclude them from being part of the Christian family.  Sometimes our list is determined by earlier teachings we received from religious teachers or pastors or even from politicians or well meaning relatives.  When the criteria for Christianity is composed by human beings, there will always be a slant or view based upon the beliefs of the one making the list.

In the scripture we will read from Matthew's Gospel, Jesus gives us a list of the kinds of people who are truly his disciples.  We call this list "The Beatitudes" as they all begin with the word "Blessed" which means "happy" or "fortunate"  whose meanings are taken from the Greek word "markarios".
Jesus taught his disciples that those who followed him would be poor in spirit, they would mourn, they would be meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and they would hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Jesus said that those persons would receive from God gifts in response to their spiritual longings or qualities.

If someone mourns for a loss or for the world's situation that they can do little about, God will comfort them.  If someone admits that they they are dependent on God (poor in spirit), they will be drawn closer to God.  If someone is meek (agreeable), then others on earth will want to be around them.  Those kinds of persons yearn for God's righteousness to be made a reality in the world around them.  As humble, agreeable people admit their dependence upon God, and hunger for God's righteousness to be made real in their lives, they will not be disappointed.

In turn, such persons live lives where they are merciful, where they are peacemakers, where they seek God's cleansing of their lives, their thoughts, they actions.  These will be called the Children of God.  Sometimes such persons are persecuted by others because of their desire to belong to God's Realm rather than this earthly realm in which we live.  They are often misunderstood or judged by others because they see the world in a way that is not as the majority do.  They may be looked upon as different than others because their lives are in God's stream of bringing about justice and righteousness for those who are despised or oppressed by many in the mainstream.

It is not always popular to stand up for those who are being looked down upon by society.  Most of us would shy away from making a public stand in favor of our views.  We do not want to call attention to ourselves and may stay quiet when it comes to speaking up on behalf of persons who have little power in the face of the powerful.  Perhaps Jesus was preparing his disciples for the road ahead that h he knew would be rough.  Jesus knew that his vision of God's Kingdom was so different from the everyday world in which they lives in the First Century that opposition was going to happen.  He described what God's Kingdom looks like and then warned them that having those blessed characteristics may not be a popular thing among their fellow citizens.

Today, those of us who claim the name "Christian" must evaluate our own lives and determine if we are truly merciful, humble, agreeable people who seek God's righteousness to the point that we hunger for it.  We must determine if God's direction in life is more important to us than the human viewpoint that the majority possess.  We must decide if we can be silent in the face of racism and oppression of minorities or if we will work for a better way of life for those who have few friends to support them.

Happy, blessed, fortunate are you if you can make those traits a goal in your life that Jesus described to his followers in his day.  You will find a desire to be closer to God to be a part of the life that you live daily as you go about your normal way of being.  You will find a satisfaction that cannot come from simply existing but you will have a goal of serving God and neighbor as part of who are you each day that you live.

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