don't try to be the beatitudes
A couple thoughts on the beatitudes. You know, "blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek" etc. (Matthew 5.1-11 or shorter at Luke 6.20-23). Growing up, I always implicitly read this as essentially Jesus' virtue ethics. Put another way: this is a list of things you should aspire to be like. Be meek. Be merciful. Be pure in heart. This is what good Christians should aspire to be like.
Then Dallas Willard came along in The Divine Conspiracy, and upturned that idea. He asserts that Jesus is not making a list of things to "become" - but a list of the kind of people who are in the Kingdom. Meaning - the kingdom has poor people. The kingdom has sad people. The kingdom has persecuted people. This is what the Kingdom is LIKE - a collection of marginalized people!
This fits very well with the picture of the kingdom in the gospels. It was the tax collectors and poor, not the rich or those with political power, that were heartily welcomed.
This helps me, cause if this list is what I'm supposed to BE like, then am I supposed to cry more than I do? Seek persecution?
But read Willard's way, there are problems too. In order to show that this is a list of welcoming grace, Willard interprets some things weird. For instance, "pure in heart" becomes, "blessed are the perfectionists."
I used his text (Divine Conspiracy) a while ago, and love how he starts it with that woman who is tired of simply studying the scriptures and wants to know how to DO it... but I think he goes belly-up on the beatitudes" - Professor Klyne Snodgrass on Dallas Willard via Southern metaphor.
I love it when he says "belly-up."