Being a Christian is not about not doing things that are wrong, but it is about doing things that are right. It is about adopting a certain attitude that fuels those right behaviors that are positive and proactive and which transforms us as well as the world.
This is why Jesus begins his first major public discourse with The Beatitudes — the Blessings. Jesus begins by telling us who we are to be and what attitudes we are to adopt. We are to be poor in spirit rather than smug; we are to be gentle rather than hostile and aggressive; we are to mourn and hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God; we are to be merciful, single-mindedly devoted to God, and we are to be peacemakers. And we are to celebrate when we are picked on and made fun of for doing what is right.
It is sad that Jesus puts these things up front in his mission and his teachings, yet so few people really pay attention to them, or strive to live them. When we go to confession, we measure our lives against The Ten Commandments; yet, The Beatitudes go much further than the Commandments. We should be measuring our lives against The Beatitudes in confession — we should be confessing how we have willfully denied being the people Jesus tells us he wants us to be in both our attitude and action. We should not be measuring our lives by “Thou shalt not” but by what are told to do and be but are not, or worse, refuse to be.
The Beatitudes are the path to sainthood and ALL Christians are called to be saints. Following “Thou shalt not murder” does not make me a saint. Practicing “Thou shalt not bear false witness” does not make me a saint. Keeping “Thou shalt not commit adultery” does not make me a saint. These are expressions of the most basic elements of human interaction. NOBODY should be doing these things. It is nothing special to do what we are supposed to be doing anyway. But we are called to go beyond these basics. We are called to make peace in our own lives and in the lives of others. We are called to be merciful. We are called to be gentle. We are called to mourn — and there is much to mourn in this world.
Even when Osama Bin Laden was killed, I, as a Christian, did not feel it was appropriate to celebrate. Life is too precious to celebrate the passing of anyone no matter how despicable. I quietly mourned the taking of a life and mourned a world in which taking of a life was felt to be necessary; and I continued to mourn the thousands of deaths caused by that man. Violence, revenge, death, and terror are humanity’s way, not God’s way, certainly not the way of God’s Christ, and I mourn the fact that these things have been woven into the Christian faith.
The challenge I offer you — your mission should you choose to accept it — is to read The Beatitudes and strive to follow them today — ALL SAINTS DAY (that includes you too). Just for today, put aside being the person you are willing to settle for and strive to be the person Jesus knows you can be.
This message will not self-destruct in ten seconds, but will never pass away even when heaven and earth have passed away, for they are the Word of Christ, who endures forever.