In Unity there is strength; We can move mountains when we're united. No matter where we come from, there is one language we can all speak and understand from birth, the language of the heart, love.”
The source of love and unity
Love covers and protects. It does not seek to expose other people’s weaknesses and faults. It does not delight in other’s misfortunes.
Today’s passage begins with the rather strange account of Noah getting drunk. The fact that he was a righteous man did not mean that he was perfect. Shem and Japheth are commended for ‘cover[ing] their father’s nakedness’ (9:23).
Love and unity go hand in hand. The Tower of Babel is the symbol of disunity (11:1–9). The people said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves’ (v.4). This act of pride and power-seeking led to disunity, symbolised in the confusion of different languages in the world. ‘The Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth’ (v.9).
The day of Pentecost was the reversal of Babel. The Holy Spirit enables people to say: ‘each of us hears them [speaking] in our native language’ (Acts 2:8). The gift of tongues symbolises the fact that the Holy Spirit reverses the disunity of Babel and unites all peoples and languages.
This is a common experience today as we see the Holy Spirit bringing love and unity across churches, languages and nations.
The source of God’s favour and true happiness
According to Jesus, true happiness does not come from all the things that society suggests. It does not come from celebrity, beauty, wealth and possessions. It is not about how you feel. It is not about what you have or even about what you do.
The Greek word, ‘makarios’ (used in 5:3–11) means ‘blessed’, ‘fortunate’, ‘happy’ – the privileged recipient of God’s favour. Or, as the Amplified version puts it, ‘happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous, that is, with life-joy and satisfaction… regardless of their outward conditions.’
In the Beatitudes (‘beautiful attitudes’!) Jesus highlights eight unexpected situations in which you receive God’s favour and blessings.
1. Be spiritually desperate for God ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (v.3a). The word for ‘poor’ means ‘begging… dependent on others for support’. Here, it means being brought low or weakened to the point of realising the need to depend on Jesus: ‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope’ (v.3a, MSG). The poor in spirit are blessed because, through what Jesus has made possible, ‘yours is the kingdom of heaven’ (v.3b).
2. Weep over your condition ‘Blessed are those who mourn’ (v.4a). Mourn your own sin and the mess in the world around you. Weep with those who weep. It is not wrong to weep and to mourn the loss of those you love. Jesus’ promise is that those who mourn ‘will be comforted’ (v.4b). God’s comfort goes way beyond any kind of ordinary comfort. As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘It’s almost worth having a problem in order to be able to experience [God’s comfort].’
3. Be content with who you are ‘Blessed are the meek’ (v.5a). The Greek word for ‘meek’ means ‘gentle’, ‘considerate’, ‘unassuming’. It is showing kindness and love for others. It is the opposite of arrogance and self-seeking. It means ‘broken’, not in the sense of a broken glass that is shattered, but in the way that a horse is broken – tamed, strength under control. Through Jesus the meek are blessed – ‘they will inherit the earth’ (v.5b).
‘You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less’ (v.5a, MSG).
4. Be hungry for God ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’ (v.6a). ‘You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God’ (v.6a, MSG). Pursue a relationship with God as your number one priority in life. Pursuing anything else for its own sake ultimately leaves you empty. But the blessing of a hunger for God and his righteousness is that you ‘will be filled’ (v.6b).
5. Receive forgiveness and be merciful ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’ (v.7a). Don’t give people what they ‘deserve’; give them what they don’t deserve. As C.S. Lewis put it, ‘To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.’ The merciful are blessed because ‘they will be shown mercy’ (v.7b).
6. Be completely sincere ‘You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right’ (v.8a, MSG). ‘Blessed are the pure in heart’ (v.8a). This is not just outward purity but integrity, openness, sincerity and authenticity. It is a purity that truly allows you to ‘see God’ (v.8b). A pure heart starts with your thoughts because your thoughts become your words, your actions and your character.
A key step to being pure in heart is allowing others to see us as we are – in all our brokenness and vulnerability.
7. Strive to bring peace ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ (v.9a). Don’t stir up conflict, but make peace. Jesus, the Son of God, came to make peace for you on the cross (Colossians 1:20). Blessed are the peacemakers ‘for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9b). ‘You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight’ (v.9a, MSG).
8. Expect nothing in return except persecution ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness’ (v.10a). Don’t expect anything from the world in return except criticism. But God is with the persecuted church: ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (v.10b).
Love is the source of life ...through Jesus we can have the greatest love that is unfailing and that is always with us forever.