Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mourning and Selfishness

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

For the past several days we have been surveying Luke’s version of Jesus’ most famous sermon. For the next two weeks, we will examine Matthew’s version of that same sermon. Like any teacher, Jesus probably gave this same sermon, which we call the Sermon on the Mount, more than once. Possibly Luke and Matthew provide us with versions of His message as preached on two different occasions. In any event, in Matthew, we have a much more detailed version of this sermon.

Let’s begin with the second beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn.” Some have tried to restrict this to mourning for sin. It is certainly true that those who mourn for sin will be refreshed by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, Jesus is being more general here. He is speaking of the faithful when they undergo genuine grief.

True grief is one of the godliest emotions we can have. We don’t always recognize this because self-pity often masquerades as grief. Self-pity arises from a self-centered heart, but grief occurs when we lose something we love deeply.

Jesus was acquainted with grief. His grief in the face of death arose not simply from a sense of personal loss, but primarily from His sensitivity to the fact that God’s glory had been diminished, that something holy and precious had been lost. Jesus wept for Lazarus, even though He knew He was going to raise him from the dead. And Jesus always had a special place in His heart for widows.

There’s a vicious myth with Greek stoic roots that permeates Christianity. The myth maintains that when a loved one dies, we aren’t supposed to cry because to cry or grieve would somehow indicate a lack of confidence in God. On the contrary, the Scriptures teach us that refusing to grieve is what shows an unwillingness to trust God. To refuse to grieve is to deny God’s love for His people.

Christianity involves the full range of emotions including joy, peace, love, anguish, grief, and anger. Each is legitimate under certain biblical conditions and each was displayed in our Savior’s life. Don’t arbitrarily stifle what might be a genuine emotion prompted by the Spirit.