I spent most of my high school math classes staring at my teachers in a state of perpetual confusion. I’m awful at math. Even when I worked hard, pursued tutoring, and dated the valedictorian of my class, I still didn’t get math. It was like a foreign language to me, so there I sat, eyes crossed and clearly confused. This had to be the way Jesus’ listeners looked at Him much of the time.
I’m currently teaching through the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, which I believe to be some of Jesus' more controversial and counter-intuitive teachings. In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Right off the bat, that had to be confusing, right? Another way of translating the word “blessed” is “happy.” So you have to think everyone was shaking their heads, wondering if they’d heard Jesus correctly. “Did he really just say, ‘Happy are those who mourn?’”
Though it may be confusing, this sentence is significant in our relationship with Christ. To “mourn” means exactly what you’d think: to feel grief or sorrow. The real question is what exactly is Jesus calling us to mourn? Let’s start with what He’s NOT saying.
Jesus does not mean, “Happy are the sad people.” That makes no sense. Jesus isn’t saying that those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, those who are abused and hurting are actually blessed and happy because one day they’ll be comforted. Like the poverty praised in Matthew 5:3, the nature of this “mourning” is spiritual.
Here’s what Jesus means by the word “mourn”: to mourn is to feel a sincere grief due to sin. This grief has two components:
1. To mourn means to grieve my sin.
2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret…” Godly grief isn’t the disappointment of getting caught or suffering consequences. That’s the way my kids respond when they’re disciplined. They always cry, but rarely because of what they’ve done and usually because of the consequences it’s caused. Godly grief, the mourning Jesus describes here, is a sincere sadness due to grieving the heart of God.
2. To mourn means to grieve social sin.
I am challenged by the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:136. He writes, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” The sin of this world should spark godly sorrow in our hearts. Sadly, when we see the sin of those around us, we’re prone to feel disgust, judgement, or irritation. While I’m not saying that’s aways inappropriate, it’s often motivated by selfish motives rather than sanctified ones.
The mourning that leads to true happiness is a sincere grief due to our own sin and the sin that stains this world. When you think about your sin and the sin you see around you, what do you feel? God wants us to feel grief. Godly grief leads us to repentance and the promise of Christ’s coming comfort (Revelation 21:1-4). Take some time today to consider your sin and ask God’s Spirit to break your heart the way your sin breaks His.