On Being Blessed
This past Thursday was my wife’s retirement party at the ministry where she has served for 31 years. As you might expect it was an emotional time for her. Her retirement gift was a huge (28” wide) wrought iron sign that read “Blessed.” Since we are planning to downsize to quite a bit less than half the space we have in our current home we are not sure where to put it but they meant well. The whole thing has me thinking about the concept of being blessed.
We evangelicals have a near-pathological fear of being corrupted by the culture. Usually when we worry about that though, or when we are sure a fellow-evangelical has already succumbed, it has to do with stuff like fretting that the same-sex couple down the block appears to be happily married, or a gnawing fear that we might actually like a Democrat, or some other culture war manifestation. But I can’t help but think that, more often than we realize, we have already been corrupted, just not in the ways that we fear.
When you hear people around us, including evangelicals, talk about being blessed they usually say thinks like “I’ve been blessed with…” and then list things like good health, a good job, a nice home, a loving family, etc. In other words we’ve come to see being blessed as meaning “having good things happen to me.” We evangelicals, for the most part, differ only by saying God gave us all this nice stuff. But when we teach our children to say “God bless Mommy and Daddy…” they know it means having good things happen to them.
Somehow Jesus missed that definition of being blessed. In Matthew 5:1-11 he lists a series of blessing that don’t seem to measure up to our exacting standards for having good things happen.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit….
“Blessed are those who mourn….
“Blessed are the meek….
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness….
“Blessed are the merciful….
“Blessed are the pure in heart….
“Blessed are the peacemakers….
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake….
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you….
Most of that list has things we’d think of as the opposite of blessing, the rest are at best neutral on the blessings scale.
It turns out that being counter-cultural is a lot harder than we think; that Jesus sees blessing as more about our character than our happiness; that counting our blessings may need to be subject to a recount. Maybe we need to take time to examine the extent to which we have already caved in to the culture around us before we start hunting for things in that culture to counter. Or, at the very least, we need to start being counter-cultural with the characteristics that are already in us, not the things we don’t like about others.