The Beatitudes: Not a New Lifestyle, Rather a New Life


Then Jesus opened His mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:2-12) 

Roman Catholic scholar Peter Kreeft offers a beautifully conceived imagery for how each of the Beatitudes fits together as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle to create a wholistic spiritual vision. They are meant to be understood together and are not to be read as separate spiritual aphorisms: 


Each of the Beatitudes, like an island in an archipelago, is connected to each of the others below the surface. Each is an outcropping of the same massive undersea mountain. Thus an explorer in the deeps of the spirit, like a diver, can find the connecting bridges and the underlying unity. That unity is Christ himself—his life, the new existence he brought into the world and which he calls ‘the Kingdom of God‘ or ‘the Kingdom of Heaven‘, the new life he invites us to enter by faith and baptism. (It is, remember, not just a new lifestyle, but a new life. It is just as real as a continent, for the New Birth is just as real as the old birth.) 


The bridges are easy to find.

For example, the poor and spirit, those detached from the desire for worldly goods, must necessarily also be the pure in heart, since their heart is not split and set on the many things of this world, but purely on the ‘one thing necessary’. They love God and therefore they shall see God. These pure in heart, in turn, are the meek, the holy and harmless and humble, because that is the character of the God their hearts are set on. The meek, in turn, are persecuted by the world and made to mourn; they are taken advantage of. Yet by their very act of suffering persecution, they are the peacemakers. They make peace by the same method Christ did on the cross: by draining off the bloody mess of human history into their own broken hearts.


The peacemakers are also the merciful, for war is caused by the insistence on justice almost as much as by injustice. The cure for war and the way to peace is not justice but mercy, forgiveness. Yet the merciful hunger and thirst for justice even as they go beyond it to mercy, where they realize that in God’s spiritual economic recovery program for our fallen world the only way to justice is not from below, from force, from something less than justice (like bombs), but from above, from something more than justice, from mercy, from the character of God himself as revealed in Christ. It is Christ’s mercy in dying for us that satisfies justice. Mercy and Truth met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Ps 85:10) on the cross.   (BACK TO VIRTUE, pp 91-92)


And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:19-20)

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)