Blessed Are Those Who Behave?
My friend is having an affair.
Pastoral thought: you or actually a friend?! OK, actually a friend.
She says it must be right because God is blessing her. I’m not sure what to do.
Blessing his people was the last thing Jesus did before returning to his Father (Luke 24:50-51).
Lifting up his hands he blessed them.
The whole point of being blessed is that blessing is his love flowing freely to us. No strings attached. We bless God out of the overflow of our hearts to him.1 He blesses us out of the overflow of his heart. Blessing says less about the one receiving the blessing, and more about the heart of the one doing the blessing.
If God blesses you it doesn’t mean he approves of what you’re doing, it means he’s blessing you. He blesses us freely. He blesses us despite of us.
Big picture: Jesus is the blessed man (Psalm 1:1) who delights in the LORD.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)
We get blessed by being in him (Psalm 2:12).
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)
Taking refuge isn’t about having your deeds approved, but recognising you need the shelter that Jesus provides.
Will Jesus bless you when you’re sinning? He’d better!
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)
The gospel is that sinners get blessed. While they’re still sinners, not once they’ve started behaving. Favourable circumstances aren’t approval of what I’m doing. They’re evidence of the kindness of God, despite my sin, and even because of my sin.
Such kindness is our God moving towards us and saying “therefore I will allure you” (Hosea 2:14) not because we’ve been good but because we “went after [our] lovers and forgot [the LORD]” (Hosea 2:13). He is always there with kindness, and that kindness is meant to bring us to repentance, to draw our hearts back to Jesus.
Our God isn’t a god who gives bad things to bad people, such that if things are going badly you must be sinning. The one who was crucified was not a bad man. Our God isn’t a god who gives good to the good. The best man who ever lived died on a cross.
The sun shines on everyone, and there is favour forever and blessing forever in Christ. He is the blessed man and we’re the sinners hiding in him forever being shown undeserved kindness – blessing. And blessing in that sense doesn’t mean material peace and prosperity – the beloved son was loved even as he suffered.
Which means the compass for my behaviour isn’t how well my circumstances are going. I may prosper and be godly, but the two may be utterly unconnected. The compass of my life isn’t meant to be set to my circumstances, Jesus is the North. And from Jesus a river of blessing comes. Jesus is a fountain that is never exhausted. Some of those blessings come in the middle of pain and costly situations, and some in sunnier days.
So, a friend sins and things are going well for her. The good circumstances aren’t evidence that God approves. They’re good circumstances. They should be taken as divine kindness, a tangible reminder that all kindness from God is undeserved.
The church can take steps towards discipline - discipline designed to facilitate repentance not to point fingers. We challenge sin with arms open to welcome any who will repent to Christ. Because Christ is there, holding out his arms all day long to bless sinners.
Arms held open even to bless me and you.
1 See Liam Thatcher: Blessed Assurance