Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4 ESV]
One of the world’s stereotypes of serious Christians is their lack of humor, almost sour personality. For the Christian it would seem the continual struggle with sin, the war which rages within those who follow Christ, anything which may resemble contentment and tolerance is treasonous toward God. Swinging the pendulum to the opposite side in an effort to weaken the acerbic stereotype many modern Christian embrace entertainment, games and fun. Both extremes offer poor examples to the world by revealing motivations designed to point at self by either separation from or embracing of the world. Both extremes are an illusion. Our fallen nature demands we point at self and not God. However, we are commanded to not allow our struggle with sin to compromise our testimony before the world. Nor are we to allow an illusion of happiness to reinforce sinful rebellion against God.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives, in short eloquent statements, a description of what a citizen of the kingdom of heaven looks like before God and the world. Integral to these statements are the demands we confront the true nature of sin, its reality and power, its enslaving control over those fallen because of the rebellion of Adam. He states “blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:3 ESV]. This is the first element of the description of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Those who are poor in spirit recognize the truth and reality of sin and hate sin because it is a lie while loving God because He is truth.
Mourning is the next element following those who are poor in spirit. Those who mourn are those who, after realizing the reality of sin and rebellion against God, recognize the consequences of sin for themselves and for others. These are the ones who repent, and turn from their sin, toward God.
Made in the image of God every person has the internal motivation and desire to have a relationship with their Creator. Mourning, or grieving, is an emotional response to the consequences of sin, which is separation from God. Yet, the emotional response is evidence of a greater focus than self. Deep grieving associated with the recognition of sin points to the absolute moral standard of God. Our emotions are indicators of His morality which He has given us in His image. That the image is corrupted does not negate the morality, or the moral code, to which we adhere as a natural part of our being. We fight against the moral code while we fight against God.
God’s judgment of sin, which is the violation of God’s absolute moral code, is death. Physical death is separation from that which sustains physical life. All need food, water and air. These needs are part of the natural law God established when He created the universe, the earth and the creatures who dwell upon the earth. Physical life is a reflection of spiritual life. Since physical death is separation from that which sustains physical life spiritual death is separation from that which sustains spiritual life. Spiritual death is separation from God. Conversely, spiritual life is eternity with God and without sin.
According to Scripture, “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” [Matthew 4:4 ESV; see Deuteronomy 8:3]. We do not need anything other than God to sustain life. There are examples from Scripture where one or all of the elements needed to sustain physical life were removed from a person yet they continued to live because God sustained their life. There are examples from Scripture where a person died and was raised from the dead. God sustains physical life. But, He has placed physical laws over all life which cannot be violated but can be suspended by Him. Miracles are God suspending the physical laws for a moment because He can. However, God will not terminate the physical laws as long as His created universe exists. Suspension is momentary. After He has accomplished His desired purpose His physical laws return to normal because He determined they be as they are.
When a person dies their physical body decomposes but their spiritual self does not cease to exist. God did not create man in His image to cause man to cease to exist. Though the body dies the person does not, unless they are separated from that which give spiritual life. Then they continue to exist without having life. This is called hell. Thinking about hell should cause one deep, uncontrolled fear and mourning.
Separation from God is judgment for sin. God has to judge sin because of the moral code, which I think is defined by who He is and since we are created in His image who we are. Since there is nothing we can do to right our relationship with God, corruption is absolute, God must do something. He created us to have a relationship with Him and continues wanting us to have that relationship. We don’t have a relationship because we do not want to. Through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, God has redeemed those who are His. Through His resurrection and the giving of the Spirit to those who are His, He guarantees their eternal existence with Him. Our sin cost Jesus more than we can know.
Yet, Jesus does not stop at telling us we are to mourn over the consequences of sin and that those who do are blessed. He says those who mourn will be comforted. The word for “comfort” means to call someone over in order to instruct them, to exhort or comfort them, to console. The word comes from another word, to call, used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the one belonging to God.
Where once we were separated from God, under His wrath based upon His righteous judgment because of our violation of His moral code, now we are recipients of His divine pleasure and instruction through the work of the Holy Spirit. We are comforted by the One Who Comforts.
Love for God made real by those who realize the lie of sin, those who are poor in spirit, motivates those who mourn to show their love within their eternal selves. Their desire is service, placing God before all else, because of His sacrifice for sin. Jesus came to serve and demands we follow Him if we are His disciple.
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:25-28 ESV]
Where recognizing the consequence of sin is deep mourning recognizing the consequence of Christ’s sacrifice is even deeper eternal service. Such service from duty only is still service but the motivation is not love. From such service are the perpetually unattractive Christians made. Service from a reaction to change the negative stereotypes of the world is still service. From such service comes a toleration for that which God does not tolerate, rebellion against Him. Nothing motivated by the thinking of the world may be deemed righteous. Just as Jesus abandoned Himself for our eternal benefit so He calls us to abandon ourselves for Him.
True servants are those who are more concerned with the thinking of the one they serve than of anyone else. Such a motivation for service leads naturally, according to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, to the motivation of “meekness.”