Jesus’ ministry started out in a unique way. He had been baptized and was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness. Afterwards, he started traveling and preaching about the kingdom of heaven. His message was clear – “Repent….” (4:1-17). He did not preach like the Pharisees who emphasized “external” righteousness, but rather called for a change from within. As he went preaching, he recruited disciples and performed remarkable miracles. This attracted a large following (4:18-25). Jesus realized that there was a huge need. The large following he commanded needed to be taught about the kingdom of heaven that he preached (5:1-2). This kingdom was different from what they knew or were used to. These people associated being blessed (happy, fortunate) with outward things like riches, status in society, having children and so on. But as he sat down on the mountain that day to teach, Jesus gave a new definition to being blessed.
Jesus literally turned the tables. Those he called blessed were those the society would never associate with blessedness. Jesus declared, in essence, that the ideals governing the kingdom of heaven are different from that governing the kingdom his audience lived in. To be blessed, according to Jesus, depended on an inward state and not on “externals.”
The metaphors used by Jesus to describe blessedness attest to the fact that this was a different kingdom. He listed the poor (“poor in spirit”), mourners, meek (“content with just who you are – no more, no less”– Msg.), hungry and thirsty (for righteousness), merciful, peacemakers, and the persecuted, as those who are blessed.
The message of Jesus that day must have jolted his hearers. They never associated “being blessed” with what Jesus described. For them, this teaching was unlike any other they have heard. Jesus came to show “a new way” – the way of the kingdom of heaven. And this was just the beginning of a comprehensive teaching on the kingdom of heaven (chap. 5-7). No wonder, they “were amazed at his teaching” (7:28).
Those of us who profess faith in Christ feel a continuing tension on this side of heaven. “We are in the world but not of the world.” The values and ideals that Jesus propound are completely different from that of the world. We are citizens of a kingdom living in another kingdom, that is unlike the kingdom we represent. Jesus boldly declared, “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). He reminds us that “what is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15). These two kingdoms are governed by ideals that are unlike each other in every way. For instance, it is expected that the way we treat people would be different from the way society treats them.
CABSA’s Guiding Principles help us in our Christian response and equally guide us to HIV competence. My favourite is “upholding the dignity and worth of every human being.” As members of His kingdom, Jesus calls us to respond with love and care to those who are burdened with one concern or the other. Where there is hatred, Jesus calls us to love. Where there is darkness, Jesus calls us to show the light. Where there is despair, Jesus calls us to bring hope. Where there is injustice, Jesus calls us to defend the cause of the oppressed. Jesus calls us to live like citizens of heaven while we are here on the earth. Our calling then demands that we will always find ourselves at cross-roads with the world. True blessedness comes from living like citizens of heaven while on earth.
To think about: As a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, in what ways would you respond differently to those who are living with HIV and AIDS than others in your society?
Written by: Tunde Fowe, Family Impact, CCoH Facilitator Representative and Lead Trainer