Though simple sounding and easy to read, each beatitude offers a radical rearrangement of our ordinary value system, daring us to be different. What we find here, in short, are guidelines for true Christian character. Charles R. Swindoll, Simple Faith
The year was 1992. I had just left home for the first time. After 19 years of living in my parent’s house with their values I found myself on my own trying to find my way in the world.
I was still surrounded by other Christians. I had found work as a technician on tour with a Christian motivational speaker but much of what I experienced in that first year on the road was nothing like what I thought it meant to be a Christian. The rules of evangelical engagement; do this; don’t do that, turning a blind eye to obvious need while preaching a brand of “health and wealth” was like a foreign language. I’m a Mennonite boy from Southern Ontario, taught to live simply and trust God. All this “name it and claim it” you’ve already won, born again mumbo jumbo didn’t make any sense to me.
By Christmas, just 4 months into a 10 month contract I was burnt out. That’s when I saw an ad in a Christian magazine with the following headline;
In the Hurried Lives of too many Christians There’s a Peace Missing.
The advertisement was for a book by evangelical theologian Charles Swindoll called Simple Faith. This was exactly what I needed. The more I listened to the motivational message I was paid to help deliver the more I felt that they were muddling it up and leave a lot of pieces out. K.I.S.S. was my personal mantra – Keep Is Simple Stupid!
I had heard of Swindoll a few years earlier. He had gained some notoriety in Christian circles with his other book, The Grace Awakening and so without knowing very much about the premise of his follow up work, other than the title and the headline in that magazine, I went out and bought it.
As it turned out, it was a detailed analysis and commentary on what is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7, Jesus longest single speech in any of the Gospels. Practically all of Jesus teaching either further explains or expands on ideas first put forth in this speech. It is possible to build your entire relationship with Jesus solely on what is said in these 3 chapters of the first Gospel without missing a single major tenant of Christianity.
I recently returned to the Sermon on the Mount in my search for meaning and purpose and it was like sitting down in front of a warm fire with a nice cup of coffee and an old friend. No flashing lights or loud music and no wild claims of utopian bliss, just simple straight forward life coaching from the heart of God.
My purpose begins with putting Jesus’ teaching in the centre of it all and Jesus teaching boils down to the Sermon on the Mount.
For the next little while I’m going to dedicate this blog to my own analysis of this speech. Hopefully it will help me to refocus my purpose.
Lucky you – You’re invited along for the ride!