Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes of Jesus

Sermon-on-the-Mount
A Bengali depiction of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, 
    for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, 
    for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
    for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, 
    for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, 
    for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, 
    for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV) 

Just as God’s Law was given on a mountain (The Ten Commandments) so the law was restated on a mountain by Jesus (Sermon on the Mount). I believe that arguably one of the most important and impacting portions of Holy Scripture are the Beatitudes of Jesus, which serve as the foundation to all of Christ’s teaching. These Beatitudes are not simply a random collection of pithy phrases from Jesus on what constitutes approval from God. They intentionally build upon each other and describe true righteousness.  

Blessed are the poor in spirit.   

This Beatitude is the spiritual base to the Christian life.  Most of the original crowd listening to Jesus thought they were on the outside of the kingdom, on the margins of true religion. Instead, Jesus told them they have a place as poor and pitiable people. To be “poor in spirit” means one is a spiritual beggar who recognizes they have nothing to offer God. It is seeing oneself, one’s sin, and one’s life as spiritually bankrupt apart from God. Beggars have no ability to strike deals; they have nothing to leverage with; and, realize they deserve nothing. Beggars do one thing continually: they beg. The proud person would never be caught begging for anything. Yet, the humble spiritual beggar constantly prays because they need God! They discern that without God there is no hope. The kingdom of heaven belongs to the penitent and not the proud. 

Blessed are those who mourn. 

This is the emotional response of acknowledging one’s spiritual poverty.  Grief and lament have a central place in Christian theology and life. To avoid it, work around it, or short-circuit its process is to refuse Christ because there is no righteousness apart from mourning over sin. Crying, weeping, and even intense tears are important and necessary. To experience personal grief over one’s sins and the sins of the church and the world is a Beatitude of Jesus. You neither need position, power, privilege, nor pedigree to be a mourner. All can mourn. This is the door by which we enter the kingdom of God. 

Blessed are the meek. 

A meek spirit is the result of realizing our poverty of spirit and practicing grief and lament. At the heart of what it means to be meek is a spirit of non-retaliation. When we are flat on our backs before God, there is no place to look but up. Thus, there is no ability to look down on others. To be meek is to be broken before God. A meek person takes personal responsibility for their attitudes and actions. The meek have no need to retaliate, even when egregiously wronged, because they fully entrust themselves to God alone who judges the living and the dead. Ironically, brokenness is the path to righteous wholeness. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. 

Only those who know their poverty of spirit, personally grieve over sin, and are truly humble/meek end up longing for righteousness. This is much more than just desire; this is the recognition that without God I will not make it. I cannot be righteous without Jesus. Simply put, righteousness is a right relationship with God and others. That is what happens when a person is meek. Such a person knows she cannot make things right by herself; she needs help, specifically, God’s help. If we ever have the thought that we can live most days of our lives without God, we do not yet know true righteousness. People who understand their great need for Jesus are easy to spot. They crave and devour God’s Word as their daily food; and they cannot stop blabbering on about Jesus. 

Sermon on the Mount
A fresco of the Sermon on the Mount on the northern wall of the Sistine Chapel.

There are three practices of living that arise from being filled with God’s righteousness.  They are the next three Beatitudes of mercy, purity, and peacemaking. These cannot be conjured up by our own will. They organically grow within us and are freely expressed because of what God is doing in our lives. You cannot force them any more than you can force a stalk of corn to grow on your terms. Instead, you work with the unforced rhythms of God’s grace and allow his righteousness to take root in you. Below the soil the activity of spiritual poverty, mourning, and humility takes place. Then, when the plant breaks the soil and flowers, it produces mercy, purity, and peace-making. 

Blessed are the merciful.  

Mercy begins with a disposition of the heart that seeks to be generous. Mercy is a loving response to someone or a group of people in misery. We accept them and help them because we ourselves have been there. Mercy looks for ways to come alongside others and help, rather than pile expectations and burdens on others without mentoring them in the ways of God. 

Blessed are the pure in heart. 

Purity also results from true righteousness. A stalk of corn might look good, but if you shuck it and it is filled with worms, it isn’t going to be worth much. Legalistic righteousness is concerned to look good, is obsessed with performance, perfection, and possessions. Conversely, the righteousness of God fills our hungry hearts and makes us pure and holy, set apart for his use. 

Blessed are the peacemakers.  

Peacemakers are people who find themselves caught in the middle and want to live righteously with the mercy and purity that God has provided for them. Peace is only realized through peacemakers. It seems we all desire peace, yet, peacemakers are hard to come by. It’s a tough gig. Peacemakers exist through being characterized by the earlier Beatitudes. To achieve peace, one must first be at peace with God and self – which is why we need the cross of Jesus Christ. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.  

When a person lives in this righteousness as presented by Jesus, there will be persecution. Folks who are offended by even slight criticisms are usually the ones who are privileged and in power. They have not yet learned the ways of Jesus. Pettiness is nothing more than a sign of unrighteousness. Yoking up with Jesus, following him, and living into his words and ways has always been risky and dangerous. The Beatitudes of Jesus are not characteristics that lead to power, prestige, or possessions, but likely just the opposite. 

The former Pope Benedict XVI, explained Christ’s Beatitudes this way: “The Beatitudes, spoken with the community of Jesus’ disciples in view, are paradoxes – the standards of the world are turned upside down as soon as things are seen in their right perspective, which is to say, in terms of God’s values, so different from those of the world. It is precisely those who are poor in worldly terms, those thought of as lost souls, who are truly fortunate ones, the blessed, who have every reason to rejoice and exult in their suffering. The Beatitudes are promises resplendent with the new image of the world and humanity inaugurated by Jesus.” 

Those who are in Jesus Christ become living beatitudes, walking, talking blessings to the world.  Those who live with Jesus in his kingdom have a destiny to be witnesses to another subversive, yet wonderful, way of life, where the last are first and the greatest are the least. 

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. 

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. 

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace. 

1 Peter 3:8-12 – To Suffer and To Bless

Light and Dark

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

“Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (NRSV)

Its one thing to give blessing to folks when they seem worthy of it – quite another thing when you have stinkers in your life. Bless the very ones who are abusive toward me? Some might think the Apostle Peter was off his rocker to instruct believers to bless insufferable persons. Peter, however, was only passing on what he had learned from the Lord Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said: You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. (Matthew 5:43-48, CEB)

The instruction to bless the hateful ingrates in our lives only seems strange when the avoidance of suffering and experiencing a pain-free existence is the summum bonum of life. Yet, I get it. We don’t like to suffer. I don’t like to suffer. It hurts! I’m not really into pain. I’m not a high tolerance pain kind of guy. I have no problem taking a pain pill at the first sign of discomfort. Even so, I know there will be times I am going to have pain – physical, emotional, and spiritual – and there is no way around it.  To live in this broken world is to experience suffering. To suffer as a Christian, however, is different because we are following the way of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as Christ suffered, we can expect to suffer as his followers, as well.  We are not above our Master. The real issue is whether we will suffer because of our own foolishness and selfishness, or because of our devotion to Christ in being kind, humble, and gracious.  When insults come our way, we need not respond with insults.  Verbal cruelty is not the way of Christ.  Anger, slander, gossip, lies, manipulative words, and belligerent bullying have absolutely no place in the kingdom of God for any reason.

God has a zero-tolerance policy toward hate speech.

The consistent witness of the New Testament is to bless and do not curse, to love and not to hate, to use our tongues for spreading words of encouragement and not of condemnation. Peter’s instruction and Christ’s teaching also totally jives with the Apostle Paul:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Live in harmony with one another…. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21, NIV)

Church Light in Dark

Christians are to us their tongues exclusively for blessing, not cursing; for love, not hate; for truth, not lies; for building-up, not tearing-down; for proclaiming good news, not bad news laced with insults.  If we suffer because of love, we shall receive blessing from God. If we suffer for giving-in to retaliation and our base desires for revenge, then we will suffer the consequences of our own stupidity.

God has called us to bless the world, not condemn it.  Christians are to be on the front lines of spreading respect, civility, kindness, and the gospel. It is no problem showing love and respect to people we like. It is a whole other ballgame to do the same for those who treat us with disrespect and hate. Yet, God watches over all who obey him, and he listens to their prayers.  God will handle the hate-filled person, not you or me.  Our task is to have a deep concern for humanity, both the ones we like and the ones we don’t.

One of the spiritual practices I occasionally do is to read an entire book of the Bible in one sitting. 1 Peter is not a long letter. Depending on the pace of your reading, it can be done between 15-30 minutes. I encourage you to take some time today or this week to slowly read it. Pay attention to how adversity affords Christians the opportunity for hope and the encouragement to live well.

May it be so. Soli Deo Gloria.

Loving Lord Jesus, you suffered and died on my behalf.  It is a small thing for me to follow you and walk in the way of suffering.  I know and have the confident expectation that blessing awaits.  Keep me true to following you through all the adversity I face in this fallen broken world.  Even so, come Lord Jesus, you who lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Romans 4:13-25 – Christianity 101

promise to abraham

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (New International Version)

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why we are here and what we are really supposed to be doing.  There’s just so much stuff going on around us all the time that it seems like we have spiritual ADD and can’t focus on what’s most important.  Certain people irritate us, we scramble to making a decent living, there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything, and there is adversity and obstacles all along life’s way.

There’s a lot going on in the book of Romans.  At first glance, like our lives, it seems complicated.  The Apostle Paul had all kinds of words for the Christians: hope; faith; righteousness; and, justification, just to name a few.  But all those ideas funneled to and pointed toward a singular focus: the Lord Jesus.  Everything in church and life comes down to Christ.

The church was losing sight of why they existed.  Within the church at Rome were both Jews and Gentiles together as one people of God.  They didn’t always see eye-to-eye on everything.  The Gentiles thought the Jews were stuck in tradition and needed to move on.  The Jews had centuries of history behind them of God working through them; they thought the Gentiles needed some solid Old Testament law to bolster their primitive spirituality.  Would the church take their cues on life from the Gentiles, or the Jews?

Paul essentially told the church that they were focused in the wrong direction.  The issues and problems of living the Christian life were to take a back seat to faith in God.  To prove his point, Paul went back to Abraham as Exhibit A of what it means to live with and for God.

It went down like this: God made a promise to Abraham of progeny in his old age; Abraham believed what God said; Abraham demonstrated his faith by having the confident expectation (hope) that God is good for his promise; and, God declared (justified) Abraham to have a right relationship with himself (righteousness).

In other words, the heart of Christian faith and practice is: God makes promises; people respond in faith, hope, and love.  Law and the willpower to keep it doesn’t even come into the equation.

Christians are the spiritual children of Abraham.  All God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ.  We respond to God by believing in Jesus. The redemptive events of Jesus make us just and right.  So, what does this mean for you and me?

We are not to get sidetracked with trying to make others like be like us.  Instead, we are to proclaim the promises of God in Christ so that others might respond by believing and embracing those promises.  Furthermore, we have no need to try and get God to like us, notice us, and/or listen to us.  God has already made and kept promises to us, demonstrating his love, mercy, and grace through his Son, the Lord Jesus.

Our lives are not to center in our abilities, or lack thereof, to live a godly life.  Rather, our lives are to revolve around the person and work of Jesus Christ through faith, with the hope that God will always hold to his promise to be with us, which frees us to love others.  This is Christianity 101.  This is the faith we embrace.

Righteous God, you have made and kept promises to me.  My ultimate deliverance from sin, death, and hell isn’t through my ability to keep the law, but in your Son’s life, death, and resurrection.  Help me to live by faith in Jesus who loved me and gave himself for me; in the strength of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Romans 3:21-31 – 8 Words That Can Change Your Life

cross of christ

“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because… he himself is righteous and he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” (NRSV)

500 years is a long time.  It was that long ago when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Church door.  It sparked the flame of Reformation, a legacy we still live with today.  Protestant Christians have a rich spiritual heritage in acknowledging and affirming the veracity of Holy Scripture and its central message of Christ’s good news of salvation.

8 words changed Martin Luther’s life, changed the course of history and Christianity, and can change our lives, too.

1. Law

The role of the law is not to save nor to sanctify, but to reveal the true state of our hearts.  The law can only condemn; it cannot save you.  Obedience is important yet cannot be done by sheer willpower.  Deliverance does not come by turning over a new leaf; that approach only gets you caught in cycle of regret, promising not to do it again, and returning to it.  Law makes us feel the great weight of our darkness.  We need to feel and know what that darkness really is….

2. Sin

Sin means missing the mark, falling short.  We must agree with God about what sin really is, without sugar-coating it.  We tend to think of sin as some terrible action like assault or murder, yet sin is primarily thought of in Scripture as not giving God his due – of de-godding God and replacing him with something else.  You and I need to be realistic about the bad news of sin before we can ever receive the good news of forgiveness.  You can’t be forgiven unless you can admit that you have done, or not done, something that warrants needing to be forgiven.  Moving forward in hope can only happen when we possess…

3. Righteousness

Righteousness means right relationships; unrighteousness means broken relationships.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for right relationships.  Like illegal aliens who cannot make themselves citizens, God grants us spiritual amnesty because we can’t make ourselves legal or righteous.  Through righteousness God has made it possible for us to live in harmony.  Holding onto bad relationships is like a dog returning to its vomit; there is no need for it because God has given us…

4. Justification

This term is a picture of the court of law.  It communicates for us that righteousness comes because God justified us, that is, he did for us what the law could not do – he sent his Son to be a substitute for us.  You can’t justify yourself by obeying the law or simply by being sorry.  Without the next word, we will wallow in our guilt because we need this for our justification to really live….

5. Faith

Faith is a gift given by God.  We do not generate faith within ourselves because sin estranges us from God.  We need God to act.  God’s righteousness can only become operative through faith.  You must hold out your hands and receive a gift to possess it.  You must come to the end of yourself to exercise faith.  You need to see that your sin is bad enough to have made your life unmanageable and that you have dug yourself in a hole too deep to get out of yourself.  If you think you can handle it, you are going back to the law, living in denial and not by faith.  We also need…

6. Grace

Faith must have an object, and that object is the cross of Christ.  It’s grace which gives faith and saves us.  Our denial is so great about our sin that we can’t reach out to God unless God acts.  Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us.  Opening the gift given to us, we find that we are given…

7. Redemption

Redemption is a word referring to a slave market.  We are slaves to sin.  We need someone to purchase our freedom.  The blood of Christ paid for my sin.  He bought me through his death.  Jesus has taken care of the sin issue through…

8. Propitiation

“Sacrifice of atonement” is the meaning of propitiation.  It is the satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin.  Because God loves, God has wrath; he is not okay with sin running amok in this world.  We are forgiven through the blood of Christ.  We are free to live into the gracious joyous life of God in Christ.  Yet, not all of us do so.  For example:

If the institution that gave me my car loan came along and forgave or satisfied the debt I have on my car, it would be weird if I kept making loan payments.  But that is what many people keep doing with their lives because they don’t really believe they are forgiven and loved by God.  We think God is constantly upset or, at least, agitated with us since we screw-up so often.  So, we live by law hoping that God will applaud our sincerity and our effort, wishing that everything will be okay.  But everything won’t be okay with that approach because God wants our faith, not our promises to be better.  His question to us is:

Do you trust me?  Do you trust me to deliver you from your sin?  Do you trust me to work out the situation that you’ve made a mess of on your own?  Do you trust me to provide for you everything you need? 

Live into your spiritual heritage. Don’t return to the law. Bask in the gracious gift of your freedom in Christ.  Live and enjoy Jesus because you have been made righteous, justified, and redeemed through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Longing for Justice and Righteousness

 
 
Some words make us squeamish.  Justice often gets a bad rap by some in the church, as if it were some code word for “liberal.”  Righteousness seems more like the “right” word, but gets thrown around like an old familiar blanket, as if we already know all that stuff.  So, what’s the big deal about justice and righteousness?  Other than being very biblical terms which get used a lot in Scripture, being just and right is what the Messiah is all about (Jeremiah 33:14-16).
 
            Justice and righteousness are most often paired together in the Old Testament.  They are really two sides of the same coin.  We often think of justice in punitive terms of giving lawbreakers what they deserve.  But biblical justice has much more to do with giving someone what they need and deserve in order to live and thrive as human beings.  To act justly means to provide things like clean drinking water, a safe environment, fair and equitable business practices, food to eat, a place to sleep, etc.  Righteousness is the relational element to justice.  To be righteous means to have right relationships, to connect with people, to move toward them and provide them with all the relational things that people need like respect, dignity, friendship, hospitality, fellowship, etc.
 
            Justice and righteousness are always to go together.  Justice without righteousness is at best, impersonal, and, at worst, condescending.  Righteousness without justice is only a dead faith that wishes well but never delivers.  But together, justice and righteousness brings love, peace, harmony, well-being, and human flourishing because all the basic necessities of life, physical and relational, are met in abundance.  This is what is meant in the Old Testament when Israel is referred to as “a land of milk and honey.”
 
            The time of abundance is here for us in the person of Jesus Christ.  Yet, it is not here in its fullness.  We anticipate, wait, and hope for the Second Coming of our Savior and King.  While we exercise patience, we long for better days.  A true Advent spirit is a deep longing for justice and righteousness because King Jesus is just and right!
 
            What do you long for today?  I long for things which are broken to be made right.  I long for biblical justice.  I long for the day when my grandson will have no more seizures.  I long for the day when individuals and families will not have to fight cancer anymore.  I long for the day when there will be no more depression, mental illness, or dementia.  I long for the day when people will be completely free of addictions.  I long for the day when there will be no more sex trafficking, death from malnutrition, grinding poverty, corrupt governments, whole families and communities torn by the ravages of HIV and AIDS, refugees with no place to call home, and devastating natural disasters.
 
I long for righteousness.  I long for the day when women and girls all across the world will not be abused and become the victims of disordered power.  I long for the day when Israelis and Palestinians, Iranians and Iraqis, Japanese and Koreans, Russians and everybody else will no more hate each other.  I long for all believers everywhere to experience the exhilaration of new life in Christ.  I long for my community to repent and believe the gospel.  I long for men and women of God to embrace Jesus and forsake all other gods.
 
            I long for the kingdom of God to come in all its fullness, in all its freedom, joy, prosperity, peace, and happiness.  God’s kingdom will not be ushered in through continued worship of things and the constant practice of accumulating more and more.  God’s kingdom will not come through worshiping a particular nation or country.  God’s kingdom will not be ushered in because of self-effort, savvy marketing, and full schedules.  God’s kingdom is not the same as our personal agendas for life. 
 

 

The kingdom of God will come when God decides it is going to come because Jesus is Lord and no one or nothing else is king!  I want to be doing justice and righteousness when he arrives.  The church of Jesus is a gathering of people who are to be just and right in their thinking and practice.  Holding those two important words together is vital to every congregation.

Psalm 11

            God is quite serious about people living in such a way that is righteous, that is, in right relationship with others.  He does not tolerate the wicked – those who only have regard for themselves and violate others with hateful speech and actions.  At the core of God’s very being, he “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  We are to be righteous because God is righteous; we are to hate wickedness because God hates it.
 
            Anytime we talk about wickedness and righteousness, it typically is in the context of others who are violent and we who are not.  This is, at best, misguided, and, at worst, flat-out a self-deception.  It is easy to observe violence in others while ignoring our own part in wickedness.  We rarely equate violence with our words, but the sheer fact is that our tongues are prone to violent speech.  Whenever we seek to dominate a conversation; start an argument in order to win at all costs; put others down for their thoughts and ideas; engage in name-calling; or, speak against another behind his/her back; then we have come under the judgment of the God who abhors every form of violence.
 
            We often feel justified in our violent speech because of our supposed pure motives.  But this disregards the mental activity that takes place in our heads before we speak.  Too many people are prone to jumping to conclusions and thus misinterpret another’s words and actions.  If we would but stop and listen to ourselves, paying attention to the erroneous stories we can tell in an instant about others, then we would measure our words and seek to connect them with the righteous nature of God.  Righteous deeds spring from righteous thoughts based in truth. 
            Holy God, your perfect character and righteousness has always been and always will be.  Help me to connect so deeply with your goodness that my thoughts, words, and actions reflect your impeccable nature through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

Daniel 9:1-19

            Daniel was one of the godliest persons in the whole of Scripture.  It was not so much because he was wise and insightful, savvy and ingenious.  He was certainly those things.  But what made Daniel godly was his tremendous sensitivity to sin.  It drove him to prayer.  It led him to fast.  It caused him to cry out to God with a great penitential confession.  Now, mind you, Daniel did not have all this concern because of his own personal failings; he was not the one running from God.  Yet, he identified so closely with his fellow Jews that he was totally distraught over their disloyalty to God’s covenant stipulations.  In other words, Israel simply did not care to obey God and they were not concerned to offer any kind of prayer of confession.  Daniel did for them what they either would not or could not do for themselves.
 
            The Lord Jesus told his disciples what truly characterizes a person of righteousness.  He said that God’s stamp of approval rests upon those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Genuinely godly people react emotionally over sin – not only theirs, but the sins of others.  Dwelling in the light of God’s presence will always cause us to discern the blackness of sin in all its foul depravity.  To not grieve over sin and disobedience is to not know God.
 
            Every human being is rushing toward eternity, and will be judged according to God’s gracious revealing of himself and his ways for humanity.  The person who grasps this reality cannot help but grieve over sin.  He mourns over the sins and the callous disregard of God in his nation.  He mourns over the greed, the hate, the cynicism, and the base lack of integrity around him.  Indeed, such a person mourns that there are so few mourners.
            Merciful God, I confess to you the sins of your people – their inattention to the things that are most important to you.  I grieve over the state of so many that do not know your grace and goodness.  I am ashamed before you that so few are sensitive to sin, even in your church.  To you, Lord God, belongs mercy and forgiveness.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.  To you do I plead on behalf of the sins of many so that your grace will become operative through Jesus Christ.  Amen.