“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Jesus begins this sermon by making it clear that God blesses only those who realize they are sinners, with nothing to bring to the table when it comes to their personal righteousness or eternal salvation (vs. 3). But He does not stop there. Jesus continues by making the point that God only blesses those who have a proper attitude toward their sinfulness. He only blesses those whose spiritual bankruptcy leads them to spiritual brokenness. It is when I fully comprehend who I am, exactly what my sin does to me and the world in which I am a part that my heart breaks before a holy and righteous God.
Joe Wright certainly acknowledged a number of prevalent sins as he attempted to help his state senators understand the role these sins play in our lives. He stood before them and prayed the following:
“Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Whether publicly or privately stating them, acknowledging sin or our sinfulness does not necessarily lead to the right attitude toward sin. In the words of John Stott, “It is one thing to be spiritually poor and acknowledge it; it is another to grieve and to mourn over it. Confession is one thing, contrition is another.”
When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (pantheo), He used the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It was a word reserved for mourning the dead. The word conveys the idea of a deep inner agony felt for one deeply loved and now lost. In the Septuagint, it is the word used of Jacob’s grief when he believed that Joseph his son was dead (Genesis 27).
While there are different kinds of mourning, at issue here is one’s sins, their [sic] attitude toward them, and the damage those sins are doing to self and others. Spiritually bankrupt, one mourns that bankruptcy, cowering before a righteous God with absolutely no resources to change one’s condition, destiny, or the plight of others. It is Job who cried out, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Paul who wrote, “Oh wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24), Peter who “wept bitterly” after denying Christ (Luke 22:62), and Nehemiah who mourned the condition of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4). At issue is not sorrow because you are lonely, discouraged, disappointed, or even guilty. The issue is personal sorrow because you are a sinner.
Paul (Romans 7:15-25) makes it clear that our personal struggle with sin will never cease, nor must our attitude toward it ever change. Conviction of sin must precede conversion. John makes it clear (I John 1:8-9) that one of the characteristics of a Christian life is the life-long struggle with and the confession of that sin.
Happy are the sad. The happiness does not come in the mourning but in God’s response to it. Mourners are blessed because they turn to God and receive His forgiveness. In David’s words, “Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven” (Psalm 32:1). Beyond that, we are told that God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), uses sorrow to draw us closer to Him (Psalm 34:4), grows us in our brokenness (Romans 5:3-4), and uses our pain to help us minister to others (II Corinthians 4:1). What a blessing it is to realize our brokenness.
Whether one realizes it or not, they are broken by sin. The real issue is the realization of one’s sinfulness and their attitude toward it. One might want to heed the following recommendations to help eliminate an improper attitude toward sin. (1) Look at the cross and the price paid for your sin. (2) Study sin in the Scripture. Read the stories of individuals, families, and nations who paid dearly because of a lax attitude toward sin, and carefully consider what the Bible says are the eternal consequences. (3) Pray for a contrite heart. We ask God for so much. Ask Him for something that really matters.
Blessed is the one who has a deep awareness and understanding of how messed up both they and the world are as opposed to how they were intended to be. Blessed is the one who sees and feels their lost condition, mourns that state, and daily seeks and accepts God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Happy are the sad.
This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.