The principles of the Beatitudes are missing in the contemporary Church, regardless of affiliation, and in the world.
Maybe one of the problems is that the Beatitudes seem strange and even sappy to contemporary ears, or as small comforts to big problems. Another may be that few Christians, including myself, are able to even begin to live according to them.
But in the last couple of years as I have studied the Beatitudes more carefully, and as I keep knocking and seeking and pressing in to understand them, I keep finding new and extraordinary dimensions of meaning and significance. I have read some commentators who claim that they are rules that Jesus gave to show an ideal no one can achieve, but I don't buy it. I mean, I agree with the sentiment, but I don't buy the idea that this was the purpose that Jesus had in mind when he gave the Sermon on the Mount.
From my perspective, the Beatitudes are the essence, the lifeblood and beating heart of authentic, ancient and living Christianity. Here they are (from Mt 5:3-10):
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Over a period of time I have written about some of my reflections on each Beatitude, some with more insight than others, here at the Huffington Post. I have also talked about them one by one on my professionally-produced podcast, "Seeking Peace."
Looking at the Beatitudes as a kind of ladder, an ascent, I have discovered some amazing things about spirituality and its fundamental relationship to the world. The Beatitudes have intense significance in a world where many Christians want to change others and the world from the top down, through forced conformity rather than genuine conversion.
The Beatitudes express the idea that peace comes from peacemakers who are characterized by their poverty of spirit, their ability to mourn for the world, their lack of attachments or clinging to personal rights, their hunger for the healing of the world, their extreme mercy extended even towards their worst enemies, and their purity of heart. Peacemakers, according to Christ, are the instruments who bring peace to the world because they exemplify these characteristics. Change comes from the inside and moves towards the external. Peacemakers are persecuted because they present a challenge to authority which compels from the outside but cannot penetrate the interior.
No one is persecuted for Christ's sake because of their political ideology, or their moral position on some behavior, as if Jesus were a theorist like Ayn Rand or Karl Marx and Christianity just another system of ethics. True persecution that is blessed by God is for living a life according to the Beatitudes.
As my study continues to evolve I have started writing a book length personal reflection on the Beatitudes. Fall and Rise, in which I attempt to show their relevance to modern life in concrete ways.
I see the Beatitudes as being revolutionary. They are antithetical to conventional wisdom or common sense in our present culture. The Beatitudes are not mere rhetoric, but apply to every area of life, from poverty and one's attitude towards money and things and how we care for those who have less to our relationship to the earth, to matter itself and to ecology.
The Beatitudes teach us how to "be peace," not just be at peace, but to become peace so that peace can spread, and that peace can come from being rooted both in the life of God and in the physical world.