Blessed are the meek? Blessed are the peacemakers?
by Peter D. Spychalla, Ph.D., D.Min.
Assistant Professor of New Testament & Spiritual Formation
The speech of a first-century Jewish prophet arrests me: “blessed are the meek, . . . blessed are the peacemakers.”
It puzzles, intrigues. How can this be? What could he possibly mean? Why would anyone want to be peaceable and meek?
Will his vision play in the theatre of our contemporary world: “blessed are the powerful, . . . blessed are strong, . . . blessed are the 1%, . . . blessed are the comfortable, . . . blessed are the famous, . . . blessed are the trendsetters.” #seekcontrol #seekmoney #seekcomfort #seekfame #dominateothers
It appears he is completely out of step with the ethos of our times. #whatcouldtheJewishprophetpossiblyknow
“Blessed”? What is this? I heard rumors that contemporary notions of “happy” are quite wide of the mark and “God-given holistic human flourishing” may better express the idea. This robust, textured reality is rooted in the favor, blessing, shalom, and eschatological promise given by God to those in covenant relationship with him, as witnessed to by the Jewish Scriptures and wisdom literature, and instruction of this teacher who is the true interpreter of Torah.
Further, I heard this flourishing is given to those who become part of the “kingdom of heaven” by being active apprentices of this prophet, believing he is the promised Jewish king, internalizing all of his instruction, and following after him. In fact, it is rumored that the virtue and dispositions of such people, “disciples” as they are called, are shaped by their Heavenly Father so they become characteristically peaceable and meek, which winsomely draws others to enter the kingdom of heaven, as the Spirit of God within them expresses the very life of God through them. I am curious about all the nuances and profundity of this, and what else this teacher said in his oration.
I invite you to join me in exploring these things further in the course, “Sermon on the Mount, Virtue Ethics, and Human Flourishing,” offered by Urbana Theological Seminary on Tuesday evenings starting June 5. We will study the message, structure, backgrounds, and key theological themes of the Sermon on the Mount in English translation. We will explore the moral vision of the Sermon from a virtue ethics perspective, and give special attention to the Sermon’s vision of happiness, a robust human flourishing informed by the Jewish wisdom tradition.
Blessed are the peacemakers? Blessed are the meek? #buildyourhouseupontherockandflourish