God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs … Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.—Matthew 5:3,12 NLT
No element of the teachings of Jesus inspires greater tenderness in the human heart than the famous Beatitudes. The central message of Jesus proclaimed that, with his advent, the Kingdom of God had drawn near to humanity. In the Beatitudes, Jesus signals the impact of the Kingdom on those who suffer in the world.
Not only does Jesus mention the poor; he also points at those who mourn, the humble, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the purehearted, and the peacemakers. He also includes those who suffer insults, persecution and false accusations for following Jesus. God will bless them all when the Kingdom turns the world order upside-down and establishes divine justice on the earth.
Immigrants and their defenders feel an instinct to apply the Beatitudes directly to immigrants. Who qualifies as “poor in spirit” if not them? Who mourns more? Who hungers more for justice? In our times, who suffers more from insults, persecution, or false testimony? Nevertheless, we should pay close attention to what Jesus said. God blesses those who suffer these contradiccions for following Jesus.
Suffering in itself doesn’t redeem anyone; it ennobles no one. It only destroys people, their dreams, longings, and hopes. But everyone can redeem their suffering by surrendering it to Christ. When we dedicate our migration to Christ, when we convert our lost wandering into a holy pilgrimage, we no longer suffer in vain. The Kingdom of God begins to work in us, converting our sufferings into blessings. The events of our earthly journey will bring us blessings now and a great reward in Heaven.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry. All Rights Reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America’s Faith (forthcoming in August 2015, Worthy Publishing). Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.