WHAT’S YOUR GOD’S HAPPINESS INDEX (GHI) (PART VIII)?
By Akin Ojumu
Contrary to what modern-day preachers would like you to believe, Christianity has never been about glitzy pageantry or glamorous extravagance. The showy exhibitionism and circus-like spectacle that have become fashionable in contemporary pulpitism is totally foreign to the Christian faith. The early Church was pioneered by men and women with no fame or fortune noted for their austere lifestyle and somber disposition.
Wielding no political power, commanding no vast temporal army, without mass following, and lacking in any measurable wealth, this group, comprised of a handful of nobodies, shook their world, upset the religious establishment, confounded the political system, and rattled the comfort zone of sinners. Despite being few in numbers, they had such a massive impact that in Thessalonica – just the second city in Europe where they had taken the Gospel – they were already labelled troublemakers; “these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…” was how they were described in Acts 17:6.
Today, many Christians marvel at the missionary success of these early Christian fathers. There are those who yearn for a return to the glory days of the early Church. Driven by nostalgia for the good old days when the preaching of God’s kingdom was not just a lot of talk but in demonstration of power, modern-day preachers often resort to gimmickry and trickery in an attempt to establish their bona fides as powerful apostles and mighty prophets. What these charlatans fail to realize is the simple fact that the early Church fathers were men whose lives were characterized by the Beatitude attitudes.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus outlined the distinctive traits of those who belong to His kingdom. In the Beatitudes, the King of kings described the qualities and principles that make citizens of His kingdom unique. Those who belong to God are spiritually poor beggarly folks, who mourn over their sin, are meek before a holy God, and always hunger and thirst for righteousness. As a result, they are merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers reconciling men back to God. For this reason, they are reviled, maligned and persecuted. This is the distinctiveness of the Christian lifestyle. And it’s only those who manifest these traits that enjoy the Makarios i.e., the blessedness or happiness.
The phrase “Blessed are” in each Beatitude implies a current state of happiness or well-being. This expression held a powerful meaning of “divine joy and perfect happiness” to the people of Christ’s day. In other words, Jesus was saying “divinely happy and fortunate are those who possess these inward qualities.” While speaking of a current “Blessedness,” each pronouncement also promised a future reward (Source: Learn Religion).
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16).
Because the early Church fathers lived out the reality of the Beatitudes, they profoundly affected the world around them. In response, the world kicked, punched and pushed back. They were persecuted, reviled, maligned, and hated. But that wasn’t all the response they got. The direct result of their Beatitude living was instantly monumental. Many believed and were saved, and societies were transformed and changed.
The fundamental purpose of a Christian in the world boils down to two things; to be salt of the earth and light of the world. The singular and primary function of the believer in Christ is to pour on the salt and turn on the light. To influence the world by being salt and light is all the Church has been called to be. The reason our world is in an ever-increasing state of rottenness and decay is because Christians have lost their saltiness. The deepening darkness and rapidly spreading wickedness all around us are a direct result of the light of the Church growing dim. When Christians fail to shine their light dark clouds of evil envelope the world.
There are professing Christians who are seen on the same Church pew every Sunday and have “Christian” in their social media bio, and yet the world doesn’t even know they are alive. Communities, cities, and countries around the world have churches in their midst, and yet they have absolutely no effect on anything. Instead, the people around the Christians fester and rot, and the world in the vicinity of the churches gets darker by the day. The Church has gone tasteless and its light dimmed because the people of God are not living out the principles of the Beatitudes.
In contemporary Christianity, spiritual poverty has been replaced by spiritual haughtiness, mourning has given way to whining, meekness is supplanted by vaingloriousness, and the hunger and thirst for righteousness have been superseded by the rush for pleasure and desire for instant gratification. Consequently, the world is full of merciless Christians, rotten to the core, and woefully incapable of reconciling men back to God. Failing to live up to the Beatitudes principles, the modern-day Church has lost its flavor and run the risk of being thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. Because Christians are not manifesting the Beatitude attitudes, their light has grown dimmed and have no good deeds to shine for the world to see.
Yet, it’s not too late to return. The Church must remember from where it has fallen. Those who are named after the name of Christ must repent and pattern their lives after the early fathers of the faith. Otherwise, the LORD will come and remove their lamp stand from its place.