Recently I heard a speaker explain that the Beatitudes are ‘a course in character development opposite to modern psychology’. That they are opposite to all psychology, modern and ancient, is obvious. But there is some serious debate as to whether or not the Beatitudes are a course we should follow.
In Crucifying Morality, R. W. Glenn argues that the Beatitudes do not give a rule for our lives, but rather ‘describe what happens “naturally” through the Spirit in a life ruled by God’s grace.’ They are not about something we are told to do; they are about what God does in us. (Read Matthew 5:3-12 to verify that; note that the first command is in verse 12.)
In fact, Glenn says:
The Beatitudes reveal the profile of the Christian, the character of the one who has had a life-changing encounter with the grace of God. In light of God’s overwhelming goodness, the sinner sees his own poverty of spirit and mourns not only for his own sin but also for the spiritual sickness of the world. Therefore, he grows meek and longs all the more earnestly for true righteousness. Therefore, he practices mercy and enjoys purity and makes peace. Therefore, he gladly endures persecution for the sake of Jesus.
That is the process the author describes beatitude by beatitude. He bases it on the idea that ‘being blessed by God is not something that you earn or achieve.’
We all know that, but, fallen human nature being what it is, we continually try to bring something to the table to earn God’s favor, somehow. We continually forget that Jesus died for all of our sins, and that God now sees us as clothed, not in our own sins, but in Christ’s righteousness. We keep on forgetting that this is all grace, because we keep on thinking we can do a little bit ourselves, just a little bit.…like using the Beatitudes as a character-building program.
However, it is God alone who saves us. When we are saved we see both our own sin and his incredible goodness to us. We realize that we cannot do anything worthy of our holy God, but that Jesus has done so for us. And day by day the Holy Spirit works thankfulness in our hearts and transforms us, so that we start becoming like those mentioned in the Beatitudes.
This goes against everything in our proud sinful natures, which is why it is good to read a book that points out how we keep on trying to hang on to a shred of our own morality, independence, and pride rather than depending on God’s grace and goodness. Over and over Glenn reminds us to crucify our own morality. As Paul pointed out, all the ‘good’ we do is only like filthy rags. Our morality is certainly not good enough for our holy God, but Christ’s righteousness is, and He gives it to us. That’s pure grace.
In other words, Christianity is not about our morality, but about Jesus’ goodness.
This is a challenging but deeply comforting book. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: This ebook has been provided for the purposes of this review, courtesy of Cross Focussed Reviews and Shepherd Press.