Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blessed Mourners, part 1

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted

When I was a child we had to memorize a bible verse for Sunday school, and (since we got to select our own verse) several of the kids cleverly discovered the shortest one in the bible:
“Jesus wept” (John 11.35)

Later in life this began to bother me because I realized that although several times Jesus is said to have shed tears … he never laughed. 

It’s true that Jesus said a few things that could be considered funny, sort of, but they’re not really jokes.  Especially if you realize that his so-called jokes were at someone’s expense.  Instead of joking, Jesus rebuked (often harshly), he judged, criticized, and even called people names.  I would argue that Jesus cursed more than he amused. 

And then there’s this crazy “blessing” for people who mourn.  If all this is true, then what sorts of people have we agreed to become?  Do all disciples of Jesus have to be dour, sad and mean?  It doesn't sound right, does it? 

Our first challenge is personal.  It’s something we must each ask ourselves, and lift up to God in prayer:

Am I willing to go wherever God leads? 

Some people are naturally grumpy and irritable, some are prone to anger, some to laughter and silliness.  Of course comedians, singers, dancers, actors, models, politicians, salesmen, popular preachers and all other kinds of clowns are paid to be attractive.  They must be attractive to make a living!  Drawing a crowd is their job.  Our great temptation is to "be ourselves," instead of being like Jesus.  And since most people want to be popular, they want to be someone others will find attractive.  Attractive physically and socially – these are the highest goals of our culture.  If you are attractive (the world convinces us) then you’ll never be alone. 

Now spend some time in prayer with this idea, and seek God’s truth – and you’ll recognize that the world is telling us exactly what we want to hear.  That’s perfect for the selfish people that we are (or used to be, before we were born again).  But now we seek God’s message: live for others.  What are the two most important commands? 

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself
If you follow both these commands, you’ll find there’s little room left for being attractive.  Rather, your focus is on revealing the attraction of God.  There’s no room for gratifying your own desires, because your neighbor's needs are greater than your selfish wants.  Get your mind off your own pitiful dramas and take a look around.  Soon, when you’re fully engaged in God’s service instead of serving your own selfishness … you’ll discover how blessed you are, but how much pain there is in the world. 

After the Vietnam War, Americans were concerned with high inflation and never wanted war again, and worried about population explosion and women’s equal rights, etc.  Meanwhile in Cambodia millions of people were murdered in the killing fields.  In the 1930s when we wanted jobs, millions of Jews, Poles, Romani and others were murdered by Nazis.  To this very day there’s suffering and pain in staggering proportions all over the world … while we bicker over taxing the rich or the color of someone’s skin, sexuality or what some celebrity did or what clothes she wears.  Gossip over trivia is our national pastime, and it helps no one; heals no one; offers no real hope at all.

If this is true in the world, how much more so should this be true of Jesus’ disciples?  What’s funny about the people in your neighborhood possibly spending eternity in Hell?  Which is more important, to give your vote to a politician, or to tell him about God?  What’s so funny about hell? 

Jesus was deliberate, urgent, sad and even angry … not because it was his personality, but because he saw how desperate our world is when it’s in the grips of Satan’s influence, even among God’s people!  In short, Jesus didn’t find much to laugh about because he loved so much – because he felt such compassion, so deeply!  Jesus knew what we ignore: the world is a dark, desperate, painful place, and we are sheep without shepherds.  That’s why he cried, he worked, he sacrificed himself, and why he taught us to do likewise.  “Be ready, live with urgency, make the most of your time, take up your cross daily and follow me,” these are the lessons of Jesus - because he despised all our needless suffering, all the result of darkness, delusion and sin. 

And he also knew there is hope.  When one has real hope, one doesn't need to escape reality through laughter or amusement or chemicals … one can embrace the possibilities of true rescue and real love.  This love comes only from God.  Only Yahweh, through the blood of His Son, can offer us hope.  And what’s funny about that?  What’s amusing or attractive about that? 
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”          John 12:31-32
This dark world is under the painful grip of Satan.  People are enslaved to their desires and to other people.  Some are dying of hunger, thirst, disease, poverty, oppression or just plain ignorance.  And as if that weren't enough, many are marching through this misery straight to hell.  In light of this, the only thing in the world we should find attractive is the ugly cross upon which we murdered Jesus for our own salvation. 

Jesus didn't find much funny because he saw the world for what is is.  Just as not many of us were telling jokes on 9/12/2001, so there won’t be a lot of humor on the Day of the Lord. 

If you don't see the world this way - then either you're not paying attention or you just don't care.  Ignorance or apathy - what's your poison?  

The first step in understanding this beatitude is to recognize what’s real – and wherein lays our only hope:  

  • If you ... wish there were more hours in the day so you can rescue people from this dark world, you won't be telling a lot of jokes, you'll rather  work your butt off to snatch as many as you can from the kingdoms of the world – you’d have a sense of urgency, like working in God’s “E.R.”
  • If you ... focused on others instead of your own pitiful self – you’d not only see how good you have it, but (if you have any sense of compassion at all) your heart will ache for others. 
  • If you ... learned from the “Poor in Spirit” beatitude, then you know how poor you are compared to God and even many other people – and you’d be humbled, broken and contrite in spirit.
"Fields are ready for harvest:
Pray the Lord to send forth reapers"

So … what kind of people should we be? 

  • Nice and fun and giggly and funny? 
  • Attractive? 
  • Ugly, mean and awful? 


Who cares?  We have work to do!  Stop worrying about what kind of personality you’re “supposed to have,” and get to the Lord’s work.  Be about your Father’s business!  After all, we claim that He is Lord.  Maybe we should endeavor to live like it. 

Remember the man in Jesus’ parable who wanted to “eat, drink and be merry”?  God called him a fool (Luke 12.19-34).  Read it, and then tell me a joke in the hearing of our Father who sent His son to be murdered for your soul and the souls of your family and friends.  I’m sure it’ll be hilarious. 


  1. excellent

    " Read it, and then tell me a joke in the hearing of our Father who sent His son to be murdered for your soul and the souls of your family and friends. I’m sure it’ll be hilarious. "

    is it weird that that was funny?

    1. Glad you picked up on the irony. Joke but not a joke - like dancing Jesus, funny but offensive.

      Now let's see how many people will accept the challenge to leave a life of silliness and triviality behind, and instead accept the great commission & ministry of rescue and reconciliation. A truly magnificent obsession