Countercultural. That was a term I heard often in my youth. Those were changing times, and either you thought the era of countercultural radicalism was a good thing, or you thought it was a frightening thing. Even in Sunday School we were told that Jesus challenged the culture of his day. For instance, it was widely taught that the sermon on the mount was countercultural, including the beatitudes:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [from Matthew 5]
Countercultural words? Well…I don’t know. These sound a little wimpy to me. Blessed are the meek? the merciful? the peacemaker? the poor in spirit?
Radicalism should sound, I don’t know, more radical?
Humility, mercy, peace, poverty of spirit aren’t exactly popular today—in politics, business, self-help literature, even many faith circles.
So I’ve written my own version of beatitudes, hoping they might be more acceptable to modern ears:
“Blessed are those who have everything they could possibly want, because they will have it easy;
“Blessed are those who are not sorry for anything they’ve ever done, because they never have to feel bad about themselves;
“Blessed are the noisy, for everyone hears them and their words take on importance;
“Blessed are those who have plenty to eat and drink, because they never have to worry about where their next meal is coming from;
“Blessed are the vindictive, because they can get even;
“Blessed are the violent, because violence takes care of their problems:
“Blessed are those who always have it easy, because they have no worries.
I know they aren’t right, but they sound right.
Really, who wants to worship a God who blesses the poor, the mourning, the persecuted, the peacemaker?
Actually, I think we all do. Because when God blesses the weak and the troubled, God blesses every one of us. God blesses your loved one in the hospital, your friend who is out of work, your neighbor whose father died, your child who is struggling in school.
Having it all straightened out actually gets in the way of being blessed. Being at the top makes us think we made it there on our own. Never having to mourn leads us to believe that we never will. If we have it easy, we think that those who have it hard must be lazy, or responsible for their own life situation.
Jesus’ words were countercultural then, and they still are.
We are called to live counter to our culture. Let us bless each other the way Jesus did.
© 2017, Melissa Bane Sevier