“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
When Jesus calls us blessed, his liberating word makes us highly favored and truly joyful. His word also always makes us increasingly marginal. We no longer fit in as well as we did before. That’s because, in speaking to us, Jesus disenchants us. He breaks the spell under which we labored. Unexpectedly we see things in a whole new way.
We live in an Olympian world. Here in the rapidly declining West, the six false Olympian gods appear to be our world’s dominant spiritual reality. The vast majority of people in the Empire, regardless of their other religious affiliations, are devoted primarily to these gods. This is true even of a vast majority of Christians. This Olympian spirit is the spell under which the majority lives.This spirit leads us to crave happiness, power, and a reputation for righteousness. The Olympian gods then provide us with the means and justifications we need to satisfy that craving. We see comfort, convenience, control, and celebrity as the meaning of life and they justify and provide us with the politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption we need to satisfy ourselves.
Jesus, however, is of a different spirit. Rather than having us pant for pleasure, power, and prestige, he invites us to follow him on the difficult path of freedom that discerns, affirms, and shares his truth, love, and vitality. He enables us to treat other people as important in themselves and not simply as means to our self-centered ends. He leads us to developing a caring relationship with God’s good creation. He helps us to become whole persons through a centering relationship with him.
When Jesus speaks his beneficially disillusioning word to us, our worldview of illusions falls away. Suddenly we see the Olympian spirit for what it is: a lying spirit that justifies evil only to lead us through indifference toward others to destruction and death.
Now, highly favored by Jesus, we become joyfully free from this captivating spirit of Olympianity even though it means living as misfits in a world still captive to it. But it also means we may now enjoy living as radiant witnesses to Jesus in a way that sparks that same radiance in others. In doing so, Jesus liberates them through us to enjoy the same truth, love, and life we all now have in him.
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