Ever been totally called out by a passage in Scripture? This one was a double-whammy, in the best way.
I was reading Luke 6, in the fresh language of the Message version, but had literally paused in the middle of reading the chapter because I realized I hadn’t turned my Instagram notifications back on, and I didn’t want to miss a single “like” or ounce of approval that might have come from the picture I had posted that morning. (#shame)
Here’s what I read in Luke 6, in the midst of my approval-seeking striving:
It’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.”
There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others,
saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them.
Popularity contests are not truth contests—
look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors!
Your task is to be true, not popular.
I could write volumes on how deeply and profoundly convicting that was for me that day. But as usual, God highlighting my need for approval didn’t stop with that conviction. It invited me to come towards Him, to recognize this tendency in my broken self, to receive grace and forgiveness, and to read some more of what Jesus said to the crowds that had gathered to hear Him: .
You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.
I never quite understood the “Blessed are you” statements in this part of scripture, but something about how this version phrased it made so much more sense to me. It seems clear that each line gives its own answer to the inevitable question of “why?” that comes in trying circumstances.
Why does He say that we are “blessed” when we’ve lost it all?
Because then God’s kingdom is there to be found.
Why does He say that we are “blessed” when we’re ravenously hungry?
Because then we are ready for the meal Jesus gives.
Why does He say that we are “blessed” when the tears flow freely?
Because then we recognize and savor the joy that comes in the morning.
This wasn’t encouragement or consolation for me. This was direction. This was instruction for how I am to live. Rather than giving in to my own addiction to accumulating approval for myself, I am instead called to place my attention outward, on others, especially those whose circumstances bring them to this relational, unignorable intimacy with the God who is close to the broken hearted.
Regarding these “Blessed are they…” statements, Father Greg Boyle writes,
“Greater precision in translation would say, ‘You’re in the right place if… you are single-hearted or work for peace.’ The Beatitudes is not a spirituality, after all. It’s a geography. It tells us where to stand.”
My natural, instinctive tendency is always to stand in my own defense, to look out for myself and my comfort and my security. And the life of following Jesus, especially as a leader, is to stand in God’s jurisdiction, to admit the shared human need for Him, and to help others overcome obstacles to that. We must shift our perspective from self to others.
May we remember where we stand, on behalf of our fellow person, in humility before God, and sing with conviction the simple words...
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.
May we be gently repositioned today to let God be our defense and our righteousness, and for us to stand in the gaps for those around us, those we lead, and those we love.