Revisiting the Sermon on the Mount: Pursuing Justice and Happiness

September 9, 2016  |  Craig St. John

By Stephen B. Mathews

Justice has been misunderstood, and so has the happiness that it brings. Guest speaker Ken Wytsma wasted no time in setting the geographical and cultural stage of the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Part of that stage was understanding happiness. The standard English translation of “blessed” doesn’t mean the pastor likes you or God will assign a heavenly crown to you. It means you are happy in a steady and lasting way because you trust in God. It means you are a stable person because you are a whole person, not because you are ignorant of or complacent over trouble.

We need a sustained inner peace that comes from being right with our Creator God. One important way we are made whole and enjoy lasting happiness is that we pursue righteousness. This is not the read-your-Bible-and-tithing kind of righteousness. There’s another misunderstanding here like with happiness.

We become righteous when we make other people’s live right—when we bring justice to those around us. Jesus Christ showed us repeatedly that the sustaining energy we are looking for comes from pouring ourselves out in a paradoxical turn of events as we defend others and fight for their justice

We spend so much time thinking about protecting our own internal peace and harmony by defending ourselves against what we perceive as injustice and things that are not right for us (I’m thinking of my Tai Chi practice or CYA emails at work), but Jesus is demanding that we turn that on its head. If we want sustained happiness for ourselves, then we must war against the injustice others face.

Where is injustice around you? Who are the people you know who are being treated wrongly (not righteously)? What can you do to start a war for peace in their lives? When will you show that you are willing to give up your happiness, so that you might have it?

As for me, I’m going to continue finding ways to love my LGBTQ family members, who are of course fellow bearers of God’s image, when they are unjustly treated, even though doing so causes me to receive objection from some others in my own family.