blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness…

blessed are those who hunger and thirst

* this is fourth in a series focused on the beatitudes in matthew 5.  the first three are:  blessed are the spiritually poor, blessed are those who mourn & blessed are the meek.

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a few days ago i walked a labyrinth with a friend.  no matter how long or short, whenever i carve out quiet time & get some silence & space to connect with God, i am always refreshed somehow.  nothing super exciting happened in the moment but i did have this strong and beautiful sense of God’s sureness underneath my feet as i walked.

it was the world’s ugliest labryinth (really) and it was a little windy & cold outside but as i walked i started noticing these little rocks that were sparkly & shiny here and there.  they were scattered within the stark brownness of the rest of the path.  i felt this sense of God whispering, “notice the beauty…don’t miss the beauty…see, it’s here…sometimes it’s hard to notice but it’s there.” in the middle of the mess of living in the trenches with people, sometimes i just get tired.  the needs always are bigger than our resources.  pain doesn’t magically disappear.  poverty is complicated.  abuse has long-lasting and brutal effects.  and a Jesus-centered life of descent as opposed to the life of ascent (even though that one’s taught in Jesus’ name, too) is definitely a bumpier road.

but that’s the road that Jesus is calling us to in the beatitudes.  it is a beautiful road.  and an ugly road (my friend deb made up a new word–beautifugly).  and most definitely the road i want to continue to walk because there’s so much to be learned here.

in this fourth beatitude, Jesus says, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (NIV).  in the NLT it says, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” the word in the king james for righteousness in the broader sense is centered on the way toward a state approved of by God, integrity, purity, virtue of life.  in the narrower sense, it is justice.

there are three parts of this beatitude to consider.

the first is the “hunger and thirst” part.  this implies that we aren’t where we want to be.  we aren’t satisfied with the status quo.  we want more.  people who are hungry and thirsty will go to pretty big lengths to try and find food & water.  embedded in these words are longing, desire, and some kind of movement.

in this past week i have had several conversations centered around women & the church.  biblical equality is such a foreign concept in so many evangelical circles & every time i think about the inequality & the perpetuating of oppression toward women that is basically the norm i get all riled up.  and it reminds me just how powerful the status-quo-and-what-we’ve-always-been-fed is.  if it doesn’t affect us, often we don’t really care.  if everyone else is doing it or buys into it or throws “God says” into the sentence, shouldn’t we, too?  hungering and thirsting after integrity looks to me like a holy-stirring inside that says “things are not right and i want to play a part in making them right.”

the second part of the beatitude–righteousness–might easily mispoint us toward personal piousness & making sure we somehow have our own ducks in a row. but what if we read it more corporately and considered communally what hungering and thirsting for integrity & justice really looked like in action?  so much of what i had been taught in a lot of my contemporary christian experience was focused on “personal righteousness”–basically making sure that i was “right with God” somehow.  it centered on thinking the right thoughts & believing the right things.  when i read this now, i see something far deeper. i see a corporate thirst for integrity & wholeness that comes not from ascending up toward God, getting one step away from our humanity and one step closer to godliness, but rather a descent toward embracing our humanness & need for God & the wholeness that comes from that.

the last part of the beatitude says that the blessing of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is that we will be fed, filled, satisfied. i don’t think this is a contentment that brings stagnation or inaction.  but i think it is a contentment that is God-fuel, holy spirit reminders like the one i got yesterday at the labyrinth–“i’m here, strong and firm, i’m underneath you, and i’m making beauty in the ugliness.” as i was walking the labyrinth the lovely words of julian of norwich, the 14th century mystic, came to me.  i knew it must somehow be God because it is very rarely something that i reference or think of.  she says, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” somehow that’s what satisfied, full, filled somehow means to me.

in the midst of Jesus’ seemingly-crazy-upside-down-living we can have deep peace. in the midst of longing for change in our own lives, in the lives of the world & the neighborhoods & churches & families, we can have deep peace.  in the midst of embracing our humanity & letting God work in our lives, we can have deep peace.  in the midst of actively pursuing justice & advocating for change, we can have deep peace.

God, help us be people who long for change, in our own lives & in the communities we live in.  and then, guide us as we act on those longings and pursue justice, integrity, wholeness and healing.  may we experience your deep peace in the midst.

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ps:  i posted this on facebook but i thought i’d share it here, too, as i know some of you aren’t on there.  it’s really great stuff from my friend craig spinks & recycle your faith called unprogrammed relationships. watch this one & also the one called a loving contempt.