To the average person, Jesus’ words in the beatitudes sound like crazy talk. Blessed or happy are the poor, the sad, the meek, the persecuted and those who always do things right? Really? Happy are those that have bad things said about them, who make peace, are pure and show mercy to people who hurt them? Are you kidding me? Doesn’t Jesus know that’s not how the world works? If you want to succeed, you have to grab life by the horns, take what you want, protest, be assertive, and demand your rights. You can’t let others stand in your way or treat you like that. You need to show them you are strong and in control. Prestige, power, and success are what make people happy.
Jesus’ words are hard to swallow because they are not based on the normal human ways of relating or getting things done. They are and always will be countercultural, no matter your background or where you are from. His instructions assume that God, not people, is in charge and responsible for blessings. His principles tell us that happiness and blessedness come from trusting more in Him and His ways than in people and success. His guidance reminds us that there are greater and more lasting rewards that are worth waiting for, even ones beyond those we find here on earth. When we see life through God’s eyes and the lenses of His purposes and design, everything changes. The veil is lifted and we no longer see solutions to life’s problems from the view of the world or the flesh, but through the eyes of the Spirit.
From the world’s point of view, that means living life upside down. It means loving people (like those who persecute us) when others would hate and hating other things (unrighteous things that the world may love) in order to serve God. Living life upside down means serving instead of seeking to dominate, giving more than taking, living in truth instead of lies and pretense, pursuing purity instead of our own pleasure, faith instead of doubt, suffering love instead of self-protection, self-denial instead of self-promotion or self-gratification, and self-sacrifice instead of self-centeredness. It is only by believing that God is good, powerful, and ultimately just that we can dare to live this way and wait for the results. And when results do come, whether in God’s time here on earth or later in His presence, we believe it will be worth the wait and better than anything we can have on our own.
As social workers, we may be tempted to focus on acting in our own strength and wisdom to try and bring about change in people or to combat injustice. But we should always proceed with prayerful caution. Often times as Isaiah reminds us, God’s thoughts and ways are not our ways. His approach is often different than ours. Trusting in God and living life upside down (which is really right side up in the Kingdom of God) is the way to greater joy and the blessings of God both for us and those we serve. We should remember great men of recent days like Martin Luther King, Jr., who by trusting in God impacted great social change through countercultural means of non-violence and a message of consistent truth and love for his enemies as an example of how God’s foolish ways are greater than human strength.