As His introduction to His famous, “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus enumerated the qualities of character necessary for those who wish to enter God’s heavenly Kingdom (Matthew 5:3-10). These qualities of character are known as the Beatitudes, and taken together, they present a perfect whole, describing a single individual possessing all the qualities God values in His servants. This unity of thought is showcased by the fact that the first and last of them end identically, noting that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The first quality desirable is that of being, “Poor in Spirit,” a term which denotes a humility of character willing to accept it has a need for God and is willing to respond to God accordingly, in obedience. The second quality Jesus enumerates follows naturally upon the first and taken together, each of the first two beatitudes beautifully compliments the other. The second quality Jesus praises in the beatitudes is that of sorrow: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”
If the first quality, “Poor in Spirit,” teaches us the propriety of humility, the second suggests a proper direction and cause for the same.
Though it is tempting for some to take Jesus’ statement here as a general blessing upon men and women who have grief, say from death or disease, we should be hesitant to do so. Not all sorrow is godly and not all sorrow is going to be comforted by God. Consider the admonition and warning of the Scriptures which teach, “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10; ESV).”
Godly grief understood as a grief over sin which leads to a desire to change, shown in repentance and turning to God for salvation.
The connection between mourning and sin is seen elsewhere, and, we note, in connection to humility. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10; ESVo)”
Not everyone is moved to sorrow over the sins in their lives. Some find sin amusing, making it an object of humor. Such individuals tell jokes about sinful behavior and laugh at it in themselves and in others. Such humor is inappropriate for Christians (cf. Ephesians 5:3-5), not least because God’s judgment is against those who do such things and we should take that judgment seriously.
Still others find sin to be a source of joy and pleasure, taking delight in it. They seek for constant gratification in sin, and find it strange to contemplate a life without sin (cf. 1 Peter 4:3-4). Again, the scriptures remind us, in regards to this attitude, that we will have to give an account to God (1 Peter 4:5).
Finally, not only there are those who not only find sin amusing, and fun, but there are even those who will refuse to mourn because they actually take pride in their sin; they “glory in their shame (Philippians 3:19).” And once again, the scriptures remind us that for such, “their end is destruction.”
If we will not have the proper attitude towards sin, we will not find salvation. Sin is an affront against God, and a rebellion towards His laws (cf. 1 John 3:4). Sin brings condemnation, judgment and death (cf. Romans 2:5, 8-9, 6:23). If we will not repent of our sins, Jesus warns us that we will most surely perish (cf. Luke 13:3, 5).
Yet if we will repent, there is forgiveness freely available. For while “the wages of sin is death,” we must also know that the “gift of God is life, in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23).” Sin is a great problem and should be a source of sorrow in our lives, but in Christ, if we come to God with that very attitude, it is a problem with a solution.
In humility, we need to be recognizing our standing before God. We need Him in our lives, for without Him we are poor and impoverished and lost. We need the Salvation that only He can give, and Jesus pleads with us to recognize the true dangers of sin, to mourn over our situation, and in that godly sorrow, find comfort and salvation in the forgiveness that God provides.
Which leads us to ask of ourselves, do we mourn that we might be comforted?
If you have unforgiven sin, sorrow over the same, and wish to learn more about the salvation Christ offers, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.