By Kevin A. Thompson
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are an invitation to a different way of life. They’re a request to abandon the natural responses and assumptions of life in order to live by a unique set of values. Living in this way changes everything, especially marriage.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn. . . the meek . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers . . .those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” Jesus said.
These are the lucky ones in God’s eyes; this is the ethic of God’s kingdom.
If this is how God invites us to live now, if God designed marriage and desires it to bring him glory, it only makes sense that these characteristics define a healthy marriage.
Inside out in an outside in world.
We live in an outside-in world, but the kingdom of heaven is inside out. It comes first to the human heart and then makes itself known to the world.
It seeks out the small and seemingly insignificant. It comes incognito to this world in the form of a tiny baby in a remote location.
It doesn’t spread through mass communication but through a relationship of one person to another.
It doesn’t come in a shout but in a whisper.
It doesn’t first come to kings and rulers but to common men and women.
It’s just as concerned with the humble choices of a mom as the powerful decisions of Congress.
It’s just as focused on how we treat the powerless as how we treat the powerful.
The kingdom of God is inside out: more concerned with the heart than the appearance. So, God changes us from the inside out. He purifies our heart long before he changes our appearance.
He changes our attitudes before our actions.
He changes our motivations before our outcomes.
Let’s see how He can work on our marriage from within:
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Understanding our spiritual bankruptcy before God, our complete inability to save ourselves or others, we should attack the great enemy of a good marriage—pride. When we understand our need, it creates the climate in which we can learn and mature.
2. “Blessed are those who mourn.”
We are a fallen people living in a fallen world. As we make an emotional connection to our sin, we can experience the comfort God gives. Emotional denial prevents us from realizing the comfort God offers. Emotional denial within marriage prevents us from connecting with one another.
3. “Blessed are the meek.”
It is neither the weak nor the arrogant who are blessed. Never showing anger and raging over every issue are two sides of the same coin. Neither is a healthy expression of passion.
4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Every couple will fight. Either we will fight together, or we will fight each other. Having a common pursuit is vital for any marriage. We were created to strive toward godliness. Having tasted God’s grace, we desire to live in response to what he has done for us. It is a hunger and thirst not for money, power, or fame but for righteousness that leads to blessing.
5. “Blessed are the merciful.”
Giving and receiving mercy is the climate in which marriage is supposed to be lived. Without mercy, we could never be loved or find anyone to love. With mercy, all things are possible.
6. “Blessed are the pure in heart.”
There is an enemy of marriage, and he attempts to attack the heart of it. We must guard our hearts if we are going to have any chance to make it. Impurity will cloud our eyes, making it impossible to see each other or God.
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
We live in a world that divides and conquers, but blessing comes to those who can unite and advance. Peacemaking is a major task for the bride and groom who want to have a happy marriage.
8. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.”
Success doesn’t come easily. There is a tremendous cost for what is most important. As we live by a different ethic, we will rub others the wrong way and confuse them, and often they will feel judged because we have chosen differently. Sorrow is sure to come, and regret is guaranteed when we guard our marriage above all things.
The order of these commitments is no accident. While each influences the other, there is a natural progression to how Jesus listed these attitudes.
It all begins with humility.
As we recognize our own need before God and embrace our poverty of spirit, we are pushed into action. Knowing our own need allows us to properly mourn not only our failures but also, the inadequacies of our spouse as well as the fallible nature of a union between two broken people.
As we grieve what isn’t, we are also motivated to make things the best we can. This demands from us meekness.
Avoid apathy and aggression; and embrace peace.
Avoiding both apathy and aggression empowers us to make changes—not just for ourselves but in the context of a higher calling. Ultimately, our relationships were meant to bring glory to God as we reflect aspects of his nature through our love for one another.
Lest we become overwhelmed by the task before us, we are reminded of our need for mercy. We must receive it and give it. As we do, our hearts are purified, allowing us to put aside falsehood and embrace truth.
And it’s only when our hearts are in the process of purification that we can begin to do the hard work of making peace.