I’m teaching an 8-week series on the Beatitudes to my adult Sunday school class. Yes, one week on each Beatitude! I think we are so familiar with the Beatitudes that we can fail to really grasp how counter-cultural they are, and how we fall short of the standard. The original hearers were astonished by many of the things Jesus said, and with reason.

“If we are not, it is because we have heard Jesus’s teachings so often that their edges have been worn smooth, dulling their glaring subversiveness. If we would recover their original impact, we too would be startled.” (Huston Smith)

Lest an emphasis on falling short sounds discouraging to you, we learn in the Beatitudes that this is where hope is found. When we are poor in spirit (humbly realize our lack before God) and mourn our sin, we are…blessed! The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such people, and they are comforted. The way up is down in Christianity. Christianity contains many startling paradoxes.

Contrast this with the cultural age in which we live, where we are often told to think only affirmative and positive thoughts about ourselves at all times. We want blessing – but we want to take a route to get there which is much different than the path Jesus has laid out for us.

And our view of blessing itself has become distorted – often associated with physical comforts and pleasures – rather than spiritual ones.

Below are the Beatitudes. I’ve encouraged my class to read the Beatitudes once a day for awhile and really try to “soak” in them – contemplating them with fresh eyes and renewed conviction. Perhaps you might want to as well.

The Beatitudes

He [Jesus] said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.