Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, The Merciful, And The Pure In Heart.
Matthew 5: 6 – 8.
Following from being poor in spirit, those who mourn over sin, and are meek, the fourth Beatitude, viz., Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied, is seen as concluding the first four Beatitudes, and has been called the pivotal discipleship Beatitude. Jesus’ listeners knew exactly what He meant in terms of the metaphorical expression ‘to hunger and thirst for righteousness’ compared to most of our modern contemporary experience, where to do without food and water was an everyday reality for the marginalised and dispossessed. Therefore, pursuing righteousness single-mindedly is likened to the urgency of providing for the family’s daily sustenance from day-to-day. In this context, the Jewish listeners were to go beyond their ritualised religion with their high celebratory days, by passionately living a holy life, freed from the power of sin, having been imputed by Christ’s righteousness, and practicing righteous social responsibility in the community and with outsiders (c.f., Matt 20:28; Matt 5:22-48; Rom 5:18-21).
Contrary to the natural self-centredness and possessiveness of the human heart, how does one acquire a merciful spirit? To abide in Christ is to express the richness of His tender mercy towards the alleviation of others’ sufferings, irrespective of their faith and guilt (Luke 1:78; Eph 2:4), as God Himself does (c.f., Ex 34:6-7; Lam 3:22-23). When we cherish our priceless and indelible new birth, His love transforms us and roots us in our ‘first love’ for each other (Luke 6:27-36; c.f., 1 Peter 1:3-5; Rev 2:4), as we humbly reflect His mercy through us. The implication of this beatitude (Matt 5:7) is a warning: those who harden their hearts towards giving mercy will have no mercy extended to them presently, and on the day of judgment (Matt 18:21-35). The reciprocity in being merciful is required by God, as we are those who had received His mercy. We are to demonstrate it by extending it to others; mercy is not meant to be cumulative within our being, we are to be conduits of His mercy and grace.
Culturally, in every age, civilisation is governed by a slew of societal mores and customary behaviours, and this is no different within a Christian community and as a testimony to the world: hence, Blessed are the pure in heart. Here her distinctiveness is qualified in the sixth Beatitude, with an extraordinary reward: For they shall see God (Matt 5:8). Our human sinfulness bars us from seeing God as He is, and this is attested to in the Scriptures (Ex 33:12-23; Ps 27:4; John 1:18). However, within the redeemed human spirit, there remains an unquenchable Divine-instilled longing for our Creator – to see Him. No doubt, this has to wait till the final summation of all things in Christ (Eph 1:7-14; Rev 21:3-4). But what does it mean to be pure in heart? It is, after all, the Gospel that directs us to comprehend the purity of Christ, and it is through our indwelling Saviour that the demands of divine purity is behaviourally executed (Eph 1:18-23; Phil 2:12-13), and for us to be filled up to all the fullness of God (Eph 3:14-19). When we spiritually discern that God Himself is the culmination of the Gospel, ‘the pure in heart’ realises that the ultimate insatiable blessed desire in life is in seeing God, which remains our exalted hope this side of heaven.