Change of Perspective

When a God of order and wisdom writes does something, we can expect it to be precise and thought-out.  Therefore, reading the Bible is a joyful bounty of finding shifts that are so precise they can be missed by a cursory review.  Sometimes these shifts are from a change of tense, different setting, or alteration of a subject’s viewpoint.  In Matthew 5:11-12 we see a subtle transition that I like to describe as pointing out the audience to the audience.  It comes through a change of perspective that shows the audience that while they may have thought themselves to be observers of a scene, they are really the participants being discussed.  Since the Bible is written to and for us – not just those who lived in the days it was penned – these shifts and movements of thought point out to us when we are participants and not just observers as the intended audience of the writing.

The opening of Matthew 5 begins with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and it starts with lessons and thoughts that are commonly called the beatitudes.  The expressions and thoughts of these lessons indicate expected outcomes based on certain behaviors.  If someone is a peacemaker, they can expect the end result to be called a child of God.  If someone mourns in spirit, they can expect to be comforted, and so on.  However, all the way through verse 10, Jesus uses the moniker, “Blessed are they…”  To all the disciples listening to His sermon, they could easily think He was talking about other people, but the shift happens in Verse 11.  Jesus says, “Blessed are ye…” This small shift of focus puts the perspective of the hearer from a passenger to one of the drivers.  I believe the reason Jesus did this is at least two-fold.

Firstly, there is no guarantee that we will experience the beatitudes that have gone before.  We may not seek peace and ensue it the way others have done.  As such, people will not look at us and see a manifestation of something that would compel them to call us a friend of God, child of God, etc.  Certainly, no one in Sodom and Gomorrah looked at Lot and called him that.  He had been the opposite of a peacemaker, while his uncle Abraham had been exactly that, leading to the reputation he had as a character of faith and someone who walked with God.  However, Verses 11-12 encapsulate a point all of God’s children experience to different degrees.

Even Lot was persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  While he shouldn’t have been where he was, the people in town knew he was different and said so.  Beloved, this world is not our home, and something in us that is vexed by the wickedness of this world and pushes back against the darkness contained on this old clod.  James tells us that our spirit and flesh war against each other, and that warfare makes us different than the people of this world who have no righteousness or goodness in them.  Since this world loves its own, it won’t love us as we are not its own.  Therefore, we can expect – all of us – to experience persecution and ridicule.  We can then rejoice in the confirmation that this brings that we don’t belong here, take our place in a long line of people who have suffered likewise, and yearn again with expectation at that which is to come.

Secondly, this shift of focus brings back to mind all those statements that went before.  Not only are the “they” of those verses things we should strive to make “ye” or “we,” but they are things that we are equipped to do.  Sometimes we have the mindset, “Well I just can’t _______” but such comments charge God with ill-equipping us for the battle and journey of life.  He has throughly furnished us through His gifts, and whatever He commands, He has also blessed with the ability to perform.  Sometimes we look at characters in the Bible and history and think their behavior is so high.  However, God’s children all down through the ages have been given the same measure of faith, and I need to exercise that faith so that I would mourn over sin, hunger and thirst after righteousness, seek peace and ensue it, and strive for meekness in deportment.  I already know where those things lead, as Christ has given the “end of those stories” to us.  But looking back at the list, we can look with anticipation of striving to perform with expectation of His presence and blessing.

Putting these two ideas together, Jesus encourages us and invites us to look at non-ideal things in life from a positive and fearless position.  Who among us likes persecution?  Who would dare say they enjoyed being put down and ridiculed?  In our flesh, we do whatever it takes to avoid pain, escape suffering, and blend in so that people wouldn’t single us out to make fun of.  However, Jesus tells them then and us today – with a simple word like “ye” – that this is a blessed place and worth rejoicing in.  Now, I freely confess that my life in the grand scheme of things hasn’t suffered nearly to the extent that many have like my forebears in the history of the church.  However, if hard days come, dark seasons descend, and hope seems to dry up, Jesus tells us to rejoice.  Be glad; others have been exactly where we have stood, suffered like things, but all have enjoyed the abiding presence of our God that never leaves us.  It also causes us to look upward and see something that cannot be removed or taken away.  This subtle shift is so powerful in that Jesus talks seemingly in general, but then locks eyes with us to know that He is talking not just to us but TO US.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

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