Another example of how to use the blessings of Jesus as a spiritual discipline. See previous blogs.
1.Choose one of the blessings that might be relevant to yiur life.
I am a socialist, and I have to recognise that for the mainstream of that tradition, Jesus blessing, “Happiness for the gentle: they will possess the land,” is nothing less than reactionary nonsense, because it flies in the face of the facts. What has happened to the gentle in Syria, or Yemen, or Myanmar, or for that matter, Israel. Everywhere the gentle people can be seen fleeing from their violent lands, attempting to find asylum in Europe, where increasingly they are rejected and reviled. How could Jesus come up with this blessing which is counter- factual and dangerous for anyone who might take it seriously?
It’s good to remember however, that Jesus lived in an occupied territory, where freedom fighters existed and promoted holy war against the Romans. Those who know the history of how Israel’s holy wars led to the utter defeat of its fighters, the destruction of the temple and the exile of huge numbers of its people, may feel that Jesus wasn’t so daft. In any case, how can I use this contested blessing as part of my spiritual discipline, and recommend it to others?
2. Clarify its connection with your life now.
I am directed towards the gentle people in my own acquaintance, and those known through media. I realise that they are easy to like, in that they are not agrressive and will not try to harm me. They make it possible for me to share their lives and their concerns. They make no preconditions for recognising my humanity and invite me to have none in recognising theirs. I do not however think of them as pushovers: they can be very firm in asserting their right to life and happiness; and shrewd in stripping away the hypocrisies of violent people.
Although they are sometimes made to suffer, they are not in love with suffering. Just as they do not want to cause pain to others, they do not want to be caused pain. They do not think they are entitled to own the earth but are content to share it with others including the creatures of the earth. Their gentleness leads them to respect the earth.
They also share the gentleness of God. Indeed the main theme of the Bible is the story of how from being the hooligan that almost wiped out the earth in a flood, God learned the gentleness evident in Jesus. In fact of course it’s more truly the story of how human beings learned not to project their violence on to God, but rather to copy his/her gentleness.
A) If the connection with your own life is positive, seek out the happiness promised by Jesus
In this case the connection is not positive. I am often not gentle, although I detest bullies. My instinct when faced with someone who wants to bully me or others, physically, economically, politically, intellectually or spiritually, is to destroy him. My instinct is not defensive, but aggressive; I want him to bleed.
B) if the connection is at odds with you, look at the unhappiness you are expressing or creating.
Does my instant aggression come from fear of hurt? (I think so)
Are you aggressive to bullies now because there once was a bully you could not defend against? (Yes)
Are you actually happy if you have “destroyed” someome? (No)
Would you be pleased if most people acted like you? ( God forbid)
In view of all this unhappiness would you not like to try gentleness?
3. I think I want to be like the gentle people I have described above. When I’ve tried it, I have been happy. Perhaps I can hold that happiness as a motive for being more gentle.
4. Belief in the gentleness of God is increased by sharing it in my own thoughts and actions. It doesn’t come easy, but it does grow.
5. Once I leave aggression behind, I become aware of the huge spiritual power of aggression in the world. Just thinking of the current argument about anti- semitism in the UK Labour party shows how decent people can be possessed by it, as I have been in the past.
I hope it’s in the past.