Honus Wagner was bow-legged and too small to play professional baseball, but defying critics and sportswriters alike he became one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. By the time the “Flying Dutchman” retired in 1917, he had set enough batting and fielding records to become one of the original inductees into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He is quoted as saying, “There ain’t much to being a ballplayer if you’re a ballplayer.” In other words, if playing the game is in you, then everything else comes natural with practice. Isn’t that true about all of life? What is inside of us drives our passions and excites our interests. If given enough attention, those intrinsic ambitions become reality. I become good at playing the banjo.
At the risk of oversimplifying the matter, I would suggest the following. “There ain’t much to being a Christian, if you’re a Christian.” The Bible declares in numerous passages that Christ dwells in our lives, as believers, with life-giving certainty. In the same way that blood courses through our veins, He channels His life through us. Since that is true, the Christian life is properly viewed as the on-going expression of His life in us.
Nowhere is this truth seen with more clarity than in the Sermon on the Mount. In the opening eight Beatitudes, Jesus reveals the character of those who inhabit His kingdom. He does not direct His followers to do anything; He declares who there already are. Blessed are the… is the repeated phrase. It is not blessed are those who do these things, it is blessed are the poor in spirit, merciful, peacemakers and so on. The nature of the Christian expresses itself, revealing that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We don’t start by doing anything; we begin by believing that we fully possess his Life and that that Life emulates the character traits of the Beatitudes.
But herein comes the rub. I seldom fulfill any part of the Sermon on the Mount, let alone the Beatitudes. I utterly fail, on a daily basis, to succeed in being meek. And the pure in heart thing? Right. Notice further that Jesus did not say we grow into these character traits through our obedience; we already are these things. Where is the disconnect? How should we properly understand what Jesus is teaching here?
The sermon was never meant for us. It was meant for the Life He would place in us after we are born-again. If Jesus is a Teacher only then He has set us up for failure, but if He is a Savoir, then He has given us an ideal that only He can realize in our lives after He saves us. Let me be clear. Jesus does not help us be meek; He is the meekness in us that He requires. This is all activated by faith. I no longer trust myself to be pure in heart. He is my purity. I no longer look to myself to be a peacemaker. He is the peacemaker in me. You see, there’s not a lot to being a Christian if you are one.