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June 24, 2010

Formulas or Descriptions?

201006241029.jpgStanley Hauerwas's new book, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, is a real delight. I am reading it in an episodic and leisurely manner, which memoirs lend themselves to. I have just finished his account of his father's death. Describing him as a good and gentle man, Hauerwas connects these virtues to the Beatitudes as he preaches at his father's funeral.

"My father was a good, kind, simple, gentle man. He did not try to be gentle, for there was no meanness in him...It was simply his gift to be gentle, which he gave unreservedly to those of us fortunate enough to be his family and friends.

"That his gentleness came so effortlessly helps us understand better Jesus' beatitudes. Too often those characteristics - the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek, those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted - are turned into ideals we must strive to attain. As ideals, they can become formulas for power rather than descriptions of the kind of people characteristic of the new age brought by Christ; for the beatitudes are not general recommendations for anyone but describe those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. It is they who will hunger and thirst no more, having had their lives transformed by Christ's cross and resurrection."

He continues:

"Part of the difficulty with the beatitudes is that some of the descriptions seem problematic to us - in particular, we do not honor the meek. To be meek, or gentle, is, we think, to lack ambition and drive. Gentleness, at most, is reserved for those aspects of our lives we associate with the personal, but it cannot survive the rough and tumble of 'the world.' Yet Jesus is clear that his kingdom is constituted by those who are meek and gentle - that is, by those who have learned to live without protection. Gentleness is given to those who have learned that God will not have his kingdom triumph through the violence of the world, for such a triumph came through the meekness of the cross."

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Erik Willits

I look forward to reading this book! I really like what he has to say about the beatitudes. I have been preaching on these verses lately myself and found the exact same thing. Wondering if the beatitudes are another divine proclamation that God is with those who are low on the food chain and that it's these very people He is going to use to be His salt and light and stir a revolution.

i love it because i have always heard of the beatitudes as goal to attain but i think i'm with Stanley on this one!

PS :: Glad your blogging again.

grace and peace

michelle bridges

That's beautiful.

Tim Keel

I just finished the book last weekend and there are many more such treasures. I'll likely try and post a few more here and there. (hi Michelle!)

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