A form of discipline…

My last blog promised that it would give instruction for using the blessings of Jesus, (Matthew 5) as a spiritual discipline. Instead it gave further reflections on the second blessing:

Happiness for those who grieve:

they will be comforted.

In this blog I want to make good my original promise.

1. Look at the list of blessings and focus on one that might be relevant to your life now.

Jesus said:

Happiness for those who want no power over others:

The rule of heaven belongs to them

Happiness for those who grieve:

they will be comforted.

Happiness for the gentle:

they will possess the Land.

Happiness for those who hunger and thirst for justice:

they will be satisfied.

Happiness for those who show mercy:

mercy will be shown to them.

Happiness for those who have clean hearts:

they will see God.

Happiness for the peacemakers:

they will be called God’s children.

Happiness for those persecuted in the cause of good:

the rule of heaven belongs to them.

Happiness for you, when they hurt you and persecute you and slander you for my sake,

Be full of joy and delight,

Because the reward which awaits you in heaven is huge.

For in the same way they persecuted your ancestors, the prophets.

For example, if I am conscious of a situation in which I want no power or am trying to exert power over someone, I might select the first blessing.

2. Make clear its connnection with your life.

A) If the connection with your own life is positive, seek out the happiness promised by Jesus. Note down instances of that happiness. in this case, for example, I might note:

What a relief it is not to be planning how to gain an advantage

How good it is to enjoy the other person as a person and not a means to my ends

How decisions become clearer if I have no hidden motives

How I become better at noticing those who want power over me

How I an able to share in fruitful partnership with this person and others.

B) If the connection is at odds with you, obviously,  you cannot claim the blessing for yourself immediately, but rather look at the unhappiness you are expressing or creating.

What sort of power do I want over this person?

What words and actions have expressed this desire?

Why do  I want this power?

What effect have I had on the other person?

Have I been cloaking my desire for power under an appearance of assistance or affection or religious zeal?

In view of all this unhappiness, ask: Would I not like just to give up this desire for power?

3. If you can answer yes to that question, or even if you’re not sure, go back to 2 (A) and look clearly at the advantages of renouncing power. Feel even in imagination the promised happiness, till you become sure that giving up power over others is not a sacrifice but a pleasure.

4. Remind yourself that this is the way God rules, not by power over the universe but by persuasion. The freedom enjoyed by creation and creatures right down to the movement of atomic particles is due to God’s renunciation of power. This also evident in the life, suffering death and resurrection of Jesus. The depiction of God as all powerful is a mistake based on the image of earthly rulers. When I give up power over others I open myself to the rule of God.

5. And that’s just as well, for I need to recognise that when I desire power over others I am open to being ruled by worldly powers of greed, oppression and violence. The happiness of wanting no power gives me freedom from them. Recognise and value this freedom

6. Finally, if your reflection on this blessing reminds you that you are a victim of someone or of many people who desire power, then it should remind you that Jesus and you are fellow victims in this regard. Think of his life story and his teaching as communicating “the intelligence of the victim”, some of which you know at first hand. This will give you courage to remain opposed to oppressive power without desiring it for yourself.

7. You will realise that your refusal of power over others is itself a kind of power, the power to persuade, share and enable, to suffer and to endure, which we naturally label as Christlike.

I hope these instructions which are the fruit of my own real failures and tentative successes are useful to someone else, but first of all they are meant for myself.

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