Scriptures Mathew 5:3-16 (The blessed Attitude)
Just a few years after my high school there was a traumatizing incident that happened in our neighborhood. I will never forget that night a woman died literally in our hands together with my brother that wet cold night.
That night about 10pm, we were just about to go to bed when we had some loud gun shots and immediately after, some screaming from a man. The noise had just come from the 3rd house from ours. After a few minutes, we rushed out with my younger brother to see what had happened.
We found baba Tassy screaming in pain, with a hand blasted and bleeding from trying to stop a bullet that was fired. Unfortunately the robbery that was meant to be a simple scare turned tragic when mama Tassy came out and upon seeing the thugs on the husband, she began to scream for help. In a desperate effort to escape the robbers shot and hit the wife. Baba Tassy had tried to stop them by putting his hand before the gun. She was down. When we arrived still breathing with blood gushing out from her chest, we began doing whatever ‘CPR’ we could and started shouting for help from the neighbors.
It took a long while before people started coming out to help and we eventually got a neighbors vehicle and begged them to rush the lady to hospital and handed the situation to the adults. I asked Tassy and the brother who were traumatized from seeing this event at their door step, to come home with me for the rest of the night. The call came and I was asked to communicate the death of their mother to them later that night.
What surprised me though, is why people I had known as responsible adults and loving neighbors, did not rush out with us to help, but seemed to take their sweet time to respond. The seemed slow to want to carry her body in pain and blood or attend to baba Tassy. Later I was made to understand that what we did was heroic but very risky and a little stupid, for in the process we would have met a worse fate if the thugs were still in the vicinity.
This is a typical African ghetto story or what is the ugly side of many urbanized African societies. As one Nyerere once diagnosed and said about Kenya, He said Kenya is a Man eat man society.
There is a lot of injustices and crimes happening around us. We watch innocent people abused, people are robbed, we see corruption every other day and yet….we do nothing, we say nothing. The guilty go unpunished, the offenders go scotch free, because we do or say nothing. As the scriptures says in Joshua, the times when everyone did what was right in their own sight?
There is a sticker in our Matatus that is written Zusha! This is a road safety campaign that encourages passengers in PSV to speak out directly to the conductors and drivers against reckless driving and behavior. How many people have ever Zushad.
We continue with our study on Mkenya Halisi and today we are looking at the study of Man eat man society chapter Five. Again please join a LIFE group near you to make the most of this study.
But today we ask, What is our answer to this man- eat- man society? How are we to respond in such a society today? What does a mighty God do about these mega problems in our country?
Turn with me to our Key Text: Mathew 5:3-16, what is famously known as the beatitudes.
Before we get to the text, I want to point out again that in a man eat man society, we find ourselves just watching and not seeing people. We like to watch and hear but we sadly do nothing about it.
Recently while driving in a jam, a refreshment pick up was a head of me, suddenly some of those guys who like to hike on trucks jumped on it. I thought, ok that is normal. But as he got in, he discovered the pick up was full of soda bottles and he began to empty them into his pocket. I shrugged it off and did not think it important to do anything. A little later, others joined him and they began to empty the pickup, unknown to the driver I think they emptied about 50-100 bottles. Right before my eyes I did not know what to do? But why do we watch and do nothing?
Pst. Oscar observes 3 reasons
We live in a faceless society, everyone is anonymous. Most cities are crowded, dirty and dangerous, impersonal and unfriendly. A lot of street people, beggars, con- men, preachers and vendors all around. No one seems to care. If you have ever been robbed or tried a good act or been swindled, you become less trustful and insecure and mind your own business. Pst. Mwende mentioned once a short friend fell into a terrace hole somewhere in Nyayo, and people just passed her thinking she is doing some crazy thing to seek attention despite calling out for help. She seemed to them what may be compared to a chicken that had fallen into a trap.
The other reason is people do not want to engage in their neighbor’s trouble because it may be an opportunity for profit or to advance yourself. We see others misfortunes as opportunities for our fortunes. People looting in accident scenes. Or because your neighbor is falling, like in many businesses this is time to market yourself well, things are cut throat. People using people. There are no tears, no loyalties. The death of a colleague is a chance for my promotion. Like Cain- AM I my brother’s keeper? We forsake friends, family to advance ourselves.
But the last reason is simply fear- Feeling too small, inadequate and helpless against such a mega problem. My good act on the traffic today will not amount to much in the driving culture today. It takes too much for very little or no benefit at all. So we sit back. We disengage.
Looking at the post-election violence that happened a while back: This is how the country responded:
The Rich go to expensive hotels, take holidays and drink cocktails and talk about the miseries of the country.
The Middle class – Limit their movements, huddle in their safe places and zones and homes and watch TV, and dissect to the details how horrible the country has been, they comment, forward retweet and repost on social media.
The Poor go out and fight: They are the ones running with the police in the tear gas and causing ruckus. They get hurt the most.
So here is an interesting discovery He made, the shock absorbers of peace and stability of a society is the middle class. You seated right here. The wealthy develop ways to secure their wealth and many times at the cost of other people. The low class result to revolution and chaos. Because the situation is so bad, let’s turn the tables and the carts and may be when things settle, my situation will have changed a little. The high class and wealthy result to power abuse, the low class result to rebellion and anarchy. The result is a man eat man society.
The middle class, you then are very important in this equation. We cannot afford to sit back and fold our hands. Only the middle class can fight against the abuse of power by the wealthy and only the middle class can speak and empower the poor.
The answer is not a Robin-hood mentality- to steal from the rich to empower the poor. When the middle class increase, the poor reduce and the wealthy reduce. The hope is with normal people like you and I.
But even greater hope lies in the paradox of those who belong to the Kingdom of God. Again the greater message in the gospel of Mathew from Jesus was REPENT, For the Kingdom of God is near. Jesus was calling to all to abandon the selfish, self-centered ways that lead to a man eat man society and embrace the contrasting principles of the Kingdom of God. God gives us the solution through LIFE possibilities in life circumstances.
In that passage we read: The famous Sermon on the Mount.
What is seen as the imagery of the second set of laws after Moses came from Mount Sinai, Jesus goes up the mountain side to give a new set and different kind of commandments. The people of the Law had found themselves bound, oppressed. Those who could not keep up with the demands of the law were oppressed, those who kept the law hoarded it over others.
Jesus addresses an equally man eat man society- He is speaking to a polarized community of the wealthy and powerful Romans and the poor and enslaved Jews. The disciples were like the middle class of the times. Some had businesses they were running, some were tax collectors and traders. Jerusalem was equally a cut throat society- if you remember the parables of Jesus, you recall the story of the Good Samaritan who helped the man accosted by thieves, or the woman caught in adultery.
In fact chapter 5-8 of Mathew gives you a picture of the community at the time- there were the religious law keepers, there was divorce, revenge, broken promises, there was enmity, there were the poor and needy, the rich and successful.
So how do we respond as believers- those who belong to the Kingdom as middle class in a Man eat- man society? What is the Blessed Response? I want to suggest to us that we must respond with a beautiful attitude that comes from the power of God’s LIFE working through and in us.
First we must always remember that we belong to another Kingdom, we are not governed and should not yield to the forces of Man- Eat- Man Society. And please note that The Kingdom Response will always be in Conflict and Paradoxical to the ways of the world. This is the Blessed Attitude.
Let me also emphasize the word Blessed here may not necessarily imply to lucky or exemption from trouble, but even while in difficult circumstances or environments- To be blessed summarizes the happiness, joy, fulfillment, righteousness, justice, reconciliation, peace, wholeness, love, and abundant living God seeks in your life. And, that blessing can only come by the presence of His LIFE dwelling in ours. Let me break this down.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God- In a man eat man society, people are rich in their own eyes but blessed are you when your richness does not make you think you can live without God. The poor in spirit recognize their poverty for God despite the resources and things around them. This is what we call life minus LIFE poverty. The contrasting worldly principle is pride and personal independence. The poor in spirit dwell in a proud and self-satisfied world. The promise is the fullness of the Kingdom of God? Are you spiritually poor, are you missing out on the Kingdom because of clutter in your life?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. We live in a world that pursues happiness at any cost. A world of revelry, laughter and entertainment- we run to these things for comfort and solace in a man eat man society. And so we don’t find God’s grace sufficient, God’s mercy as everalasting, God’s strength- we miss the blessing of being comforted by God, because we want to be comforted by the world? What comforts you? Do you find entertainment, revelry, clubbing and outings your greatest source of comfort and miss out on the true source of peace? The word of God, The fellowship of believers, prayer and Rest and meditation- those who encourage themselves in the Lord. In other words those who accept LIFE’s comforts for life’s desolations
Blessed are the humble for they will inherit the earth- We live in a world that is pushy and assertive, self-confident and determined to get to the top no matter the cost. The humble are seen to be weak. Yet humility is simply what God taught us- Putting others before us. In simple ways, when we learn to let others go first. Getting into a matatu and rush hours can be a pushy affair. Would we dare God to wait for the next one- or wait patiently in line and see if he will not provide? Again we miss out on LIFE inheritance because like the prodigal son, we are too eager and impatient for life inheritance. Give me my share now? What ways can you extend humility?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied. Yesterday at a graduation party, someone said a while ago it was work hard and study hard to get successful, but today our young people are learning they can be satisfied without working hard and being honest in their labours. Blessed are you who believe and work that when we do things right, the outcome is a blessing and when we do them wrong the outcome is a curse. It is depressing how shortcuts are becoming the normal or what feels the right way of living- we are not thirsty for what is right- we cut cues, we DEYA people- getting children born within 3 months instead of 9, we rush into relationships, decisions and overlook the process and expect the outcome to be satisfying. How are you thirsting and hungering?
Blessed are the Merciful for they will be shown mercy- In a man eat man society- there is no room for mercy, no room for compassion, everyone is calloused, indifferent and heartless. No one has time to listen to your long story- get to the point and get there first. Someone one said- Niskie shida zako kwanini na mimi nina zangu- We live in a world of Strength without feeling. What looks like strong marriages, strong business, strong homes- environments but truly no heart to heart connections? The outcome is we give birth to a world that does not know what LOVE is, cannot appreciate sacrifice, devotion, loyalty sadly even from the Lord.
Blessed are the Pure in heart for they will see God- In a man eat man society- Deception is acceptable. Corruption is the way to eat. So they say. But those of the Kingdom must continue to pursue God and desire to see God through a life of holiness. God is not seen in the context of sin. You either sin and get wealthy or see God and get blessed. Stop calling the result of sin a blessing. Profits, gains or even products that come from sin, in the long run become a curse if not redeemed by God.
Blessed are the Peace makers for they will be called children of God- In a man eat man society- Personal peace is pursued without concern for the world’s chaos. We don’t find peace by disengaging and protecting ourselves. Like Esther, she was a queen, but as Mordecai said to her, don’t think that because you are a queen and living in the palace that you will be spared?
That famous Poem by Martin Niemoller, a prominent German and anti- Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor He says – In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I am not a communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I am not a jew. Then they came for the trade unionist and I didn’t speak up because I am not a trade unionist, then they came for the catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was a protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up.
And lastly- Blessed are you when they persecute you for doing right, when they insult you, say you are crazy, mock you and say all sorts of evil against you, when they are hostile towards you because of standing out- Your comfort is that through the ages, that has always been the society is changed.
When we remain Salt and Light in a bitter and dark world- only then will they turn to God. And if they do not- there is a reward that awaits us that cannot compare to what we seem to have suffered in this world today.
Will you choose the Blessed way in a Man eat Man society, will you choose God’s LIFE in the midst of life’s desolations.