Whereas the first four of the beatitudes seem to deal mostly with the relationship between a person and God, the last four emphasize the character qualities that should mark a follower of Jesus in his relationships with others.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Mercy is the quality of both being moved at the suffering or troubles of another person, and then moving into action to address their condition. Such mercy requires divine empowerment, for it not only shows generosity and tenderheartedness to those who suffer, it is also expressed in quickness to forgive the sins of others when they have hurt or insulted us.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
A heart that is pure is expressed by a person who has a character of openness and sincerity. Jesus tells us that the result of such purity in heart is that the person would “see God,” an astounding claim given the transcendent holiness of a God whom “no man” could see! (Exodus 33:20 “No man can see Me, and live!”)
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
We are very familiar with peacekeepers, those UN soldiers from various countries of the world who are dispatched to warring regions to keep hostile groups from killing each other, rarely with any success. But a peacemaker is different. To make peace is to bring together hostile people and groups in such way that their very hearts are changed, and they no longer even wish to fight with one another—an impossible task without divine empowerment!
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus states that His followers are actually to be commended with they are treated with hostility and animosity in their desire to live lives in which both people and God are respected, and shown proper obedience. Such righteous living exposes the shabby and shallow modes of relating in our culture, and therefore often creates tension that leads to persecution of those seeking to live righteously. (Perhaps we Christians should not worry so much about whether we might have to undergo persecution as we should why we don’t face much persecution, at least here in America!)
It is notable to me that at this point in His sermon, Jesus does not give any developed principles of how to develop or gain any of these beatitudes—He simply states the blessed-state of those who possess them, and the (mostly future) assurances associated with them. And for the most part, they are quite impossible for flawed people like you and me to attain! In following His example, I will simply suggest that the best way for us to discover and gain such wonderful, godly qualities of character is to follow the example of those who heard Him preach that day on the mountainside, repent of our sins (4:17), follow Jesus, and look to Him alone to save us, to heal us, and to make us into the people we long to be!
Blessings, Pastor Ken