When we first encounter the statements of Jesus, they seem wonderfully simple and unstartling. They sink, unnoticed, into our unconscious minds. Take the Beatitudes, the teachings which open the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are the meek . . .” (Matthew 5:3, 5). At first these seem like nothing more than nice principles: mild and beautiful. We like them, but we aren’t roused by them, because we find them completely impractical. Unworldly, daydreamy people might be able to apply them, we think, but for those who live in the workaday world, they have no value.

We soon find, however, that the Beatitudes contain the dynamite of the Holy Spirit; they explode when the circumstances of our lives align. We’ll be going steadily along, when suddenly the Spirit will cause us to remember one of the Beatitudes. We see how startling a statement it truly is, and what obeying it would mean. Then we have to decide if we’re willing to accept the tremendous upheaval of our circumstances that will occur if we do what the Spirit is telling us to do.

We don’t need to be born again to apply the Beatitudes literally; a literal interpretation is child’s play. Obeying the Spirit of God as he applies the Beatitudes to our specific circumstances is the hard work of the disciple. Jesus’s statements are entirely at odds with our natural way of looking at things. When we first begin to obey his words, it produces astonishing discomfort.

The Sermon on the Mount isn’t a set of rules and regulations. It’s a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting his way with us. We can’t rush our understanding; we have to follow the Spirit as he applies Jesus’s teachings to our circumstances, allowing him to slowly form our walk with him.

Wisdom from Oswald

Jesus Christ reveals, not an embarrassed God, not a confused God, not a God who stands apart from the problems, but One who stands in the thick of the whole thing with man.  Disciples Indeed, 388 L