Friday, February 12, 2010
For my non-comic book reading friends, in the 1960's Superman comic series there is a character called Bizarro. Bizarro was the complete opposite of Superman. In the Bizarro world of "Htrae" ("Earth" spelled backwards), society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states "Us do opposite of all Earthly things!
This week's readings is commonly called the Beatitudes (from Latin beatus, meaning "blessed" or "happy") because they are blessings from Jesus recorded in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke.
For some critics it is like a trip to Bizarro world because it runs counter to everything that our society values.
Luke 6:17, 20-26
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven."
That makes no sense in our society.
Who wants to be poor, or hungry, or weeping, or to be hated - to be excluded and insulted and denounced as evil because of our faith? What kind of nut job would be in that situation and rejoice and leap for joy?
It doesn't seem to make any sense.
And the rest seems to go on in our journey to Bizarro world.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
What's wrong with being rich, or filled, or able to laugh, or to have people think well of you? We all want those things. Does that make me a bad person?
Of course the answer is no. Jesus is not saying that all rich people are condemned and that only the poor and suffering are saved. Jesus does not divide by class - he seeks to save everyone regardless of social class.
What Jesus is really doing here is using extreme examples to both console and shock us.
He wants to console those that society casts off. Those that our culture rejects - the poor, the hungry, the people that live on the lowest tier of our society that are not only untouchable but invisible. They are on our streets and camp by the river and under bridges but we don't see them - we see through them.
Jesus tells them that they are not forgotten - they will be consoled and made whole in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus also wants to encourage us that will suffer persecution for our faith. Standing up for our values, witnessing for our faith, is a certain path for others to mock us - to call us "goody two shoes" or "Jesus freaks." Jesus tells us to wear these insults as badges of honor. That our reward will be great in Heaven.
In Heaven - not here. Not in this world.
This world has different priorities than Jesus. In this world, you want to be rich, to be liked, you want to be the life of the party, to get along so you can move up! The nice job, the big car, the big house but you got to be willing to play the game. Don't rock the boat with your Christian values. If everyone else is doing it - you better too if you are going to get your share.
That's what Jesus is warning us not to do. He wants to shock us away from what this world will tell you makes sense.
Don't go down that path of lies because it only leads to death. Not the death of the body - we all face that - but the death of our soul.
Humans are flawed because of our sin. Because we are trapped in these physical bodies we cannot see the big picture of eternity. So our judgements are based on what we see, what others tell us - at best, advice is only for 1-2 generations. And too often now, the advice is to turn away from the Lord and to earthly things. And that is the mistake.
As Jeremiah 17:5-8 points out:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
Don't believe me?
Let's take a look at Hollywood. The root of popular culture. TV, movies, videos, music - the constant parade of starlets and fashion gurus who dictate what you should look like and how you should live your lives.
These folks have everything that society says they should - they are beautiful, powerful, famous, rich, well-fed, attend the great parties, and have thousands of fans.
And what happens to them?
Too often, they fall because of addiction. Their money is wasted on luxuries that do not give them what they really need. It amuses them for a while but then it is just more stuff. A four year old marriage is an eternity in Hollywood. They drift from relationship to relationship - always seeking but never finding what they are looking for.
The story of Hollywood stars are the same - just repeated over and over. Hollywood finds a star, builds them up, and then tears them down and looks for the next star. I can list names but that would just date me - every generation can name a star that follows this pattern.
Sometimes, I wish I could reach out to them and show them that this is not real. That they think it is a paradise that will last forever but really they are standing in a lava waste.
I want to tell them that what they are really seeking is Jesus. That until they can let Jesus enter their heart, they will remain empty and lost.
And what of those that have Jesus in their heart?
They will be satisfied no matter their condition because they have Jesus. Whether they are homeless in Haiti, or ministering to the poorest of poor in Calcutta, or lying in their deathbed. That is the joy of Christ that society will never understand because it makes no sense to them.
That is why they will always be in Bizarro land and why we are not.
I pray that their eyes be opened and the truth of Christ be revealed to them so that they can be saved and have peace too. And I pray that we who have been saved will always be strengthened and guided by the light of Christ.