By Rev. Mark H. Creech, Executive Director
Christian Action League
One of the most sublime of Scriptures is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapter 5. In that passage Jesus says, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (v.4).
The verse can have a number of meanings. It undoubtedly refers to mourning for sin. Any person who mourns because of their rebellion against God, acknowledging it and looking to him for redemption will be comforted. It can also refer to mourning over a death or disappointment. As the old Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” So such mourning can lead to comfort. But another meaning of the verse certainly could refer to mourning over the evil of this world. This too can lead to the greatest of comfort.
Lord Shaftesbury, the great English social reformer, probably did more to improve the life of the common man in England than most any other man in the nineteenth century. And it was what he witnessed one day as a young boy that so struck him with grief that he dedicated his life to impacting the culture for righteousness.
While walking along the streets of Harrow, young Shaftesbury came upon the funeral of a man who had been destitute in life. The coffin of the poor man was handmade and quite shoddy in craftsmanship and was being pushed down the street on a hand-drawn cart. The men who accompanied it were drunk and singing their risqué’ drinking songs, telling the lewdest of stories. As they pushed the cart up the hill to the cemetery, the coffin slid off the back and broke open. To a bunch of drunks it was all hilarious, but to Shaftesbury it was an evil requiring the deepest kind of sorrow. Shaftesbury promised himself that day, “When I grow up I am going to use my life to see that such things will not happen.”
It may come as a surprise to many, but through the centuries the greatest advancements of mankind have come about because of great Christians like Lord Shaftesbury and their involvement in the social arena. It was through the ministry of ardent followers of Christ that hospitals and charitable organizations were first established. Being in the vanguard of social reform, it was the influence of the church that brought about education for the masses, representative democracy and civil liberties, modern science, the free enterprise system, and inspiration for creating the world’s greatest art and music. What paupers most of the world would be today without the relief these achievements have ushered in.
Certainly a fundamental aspect of Christianity is caring for people. It’s recognizing the impoverishment of others, whether of body or soul, in such a way that it produces a deep mourning in life – a mourning enough to do something about that impoverishment – a mourning that translates into an effort to bring God’s hope and consolations.
The renowned biblical commentator, William Barclay, once noted:
“In a sense it is true to say that a man has no right to feel sympathy unless he at least tries to put that sympathy into action. An emotion is not something in which to luxuriate; it is something which at the cost of effort and toil and of discipline and sacrifice must be turned into the stuff of life.”
Today there are plenty of professors of Christianity who curse the darkness. They express their disgust at the corruption of government, deplore the advancement of gay rights and other anti-family agendas, decry the culture of death, and denounce the spread of alcohol and drug abuse. But few really mourn – mourn, that is, in way that they are moved to provide the needed light.
Nevertheless, true Christianity is about taking action – bold action – painful sacrificial action. This is what the Savior, Jesus Christ, did to bring God’s comfort in redemption. And those who would genuinely bare his name and do as he did must also mourn as he did.
Christian friend, when was the last time you mourned over a family member who doesn’t know Christ? When was the last time you mourned about the moral free fall of both our State and nation? And when was the last time you mourned enough to do something about it? The promise remains: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).