I was reading some commentary on the Sermon on The Mount, as well as looking at what the general view is on Jesus’ hillside chat. It’s been described as the ultimate guide for living, the industry standard for ethics, and the highest morals to achieve. It’s all wrong.
What? You mean even the scholars missed it? Yes, the core teachings of Jesus have been misinterpreted, badly. This has led to what we’re all familiar with – watching folks endeavor to become these super wonderful people that Jesus was describing. Except Jesus was not describing “conditions” as the things that blessed us, to borrow from Dallas Willard. He was describing blessedness in the “reality of God,” which he referred to as the kingdom.
Jesus was not saying, “Dude, you’re awesome because you’re poor.” He was saying that regardless of your poverty you too are “welcome into the kingdom of the heavens.” Now, this is where it gets tricky. No one knew what the heck he was talking about. What kingdom? What is it?
The “kingdom” is Jesus’ focus. He says it’s here, right now – as close as our breath – and can be present in all that we do. It’s a holistic faith, if you will. He describes it dozens of ways. The descriptions are tough to digest in 2012, but they’re commonplace. In other words, we can experience this God reality in our work, home, when doing yard work, driving down the street. There is no need to be in some spiritual trance.
The kingdom is a relationship with God under the guidance of the master teacher of God. It’s not and never has been a set of religious instructions. Rather, kingdom living is like a walk in the spring. Suddenly we’re in the moment. Our worries and fears are gone. Spring colors glow. The sun is brilliant. The birds, the air, the scents, all swirl as one. We are happy just to be alive.
The kingdom of God is not some far off event, or stuff that happens when we die. Jesus was hyper-focused on the here and now. He was inviting people who were under the severe oppression and brutality of the Roman Empire into God’s Empire. He was inviting people who were suffering under character defects that made their lives a living hell into God’s way of living, of viewing the world, of living life. That’s a hell of an invitation!
This is why it was Good News – it was a completely fresh mind set. It still is.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson