Manifestos declare revolutionary ideas. The Communist Manifesto of 1848 called for the redistribution of wealth. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517 affirmed salvation by faith alone, and the 13 colonies’ Declaration of Independence in 1776 made a case for citizens’ right of revolt.
The most revolutionary declaration of all, however, was the first-century preamble to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. With fewer words than Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” Jesus of Nazareth turned common values inside out and upside down. With ideas that were as countercultural as thoughts could be, He gave us reason to declare:
WHEREAS the wisest and best man the world has ever known changed history with the point of His words rather than by the edge of a sword, and,
WHEREAS He declined to accept political power, even when it was within His grasp, and,
WHEREAS He taught us to live by the way He died, Be it resolved that we will seek to change our own world by the spirit and attitudes we have found in Him.
TO THAT END we confess that our Lord gave us a new way of seeing ourselves and others when He looked at the crowds of hurting people who were following Him and said:
1. BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. In the presence of One who healed withered legs and blind eyes to earn the right to be trusted, we discovered that our troubles had done us a favor. Our material losses and moral failures had brought us to the only One who could help us. Because we could not help ourselves, we followed Him long enough to hear the words,
2. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED. When our hearts broke under the weight of our own wrongs, this Teacher’s ideas made sense.
With His help we saw that our problems were rooted not in bad leaders, laws, or circumstances, but in ourselves. Only when we saw our need for forgiveness did we find the comfort we were looking for. Only when we were assured of a better future than we had ever dreamed possible could we see why our King would say,
3. BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH. In the presence of One who walked on water, calmed a storm, and spoke peace to the most troubled hearts, we found that being submissive to Him gave us inner strength and courage. In declaring our surrender to Him, we saw that the earth on which we knelt was not ours to conquer but His to entrust. In the assurance of His promise we were ready to hear Him say,
4. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR THEY SHALL BE FILLED. As we learned new ways of relating to others, we found a peace that replaced our thirst for conflict. As we hungered for His attitudes, we realized that His life began to show up in ourselves. As we responded to others with the patience and love we found in Him, we found a freedom of spirit that soared on the words,
5. BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY. From our Teacher’s example we learned that honor is found not by passing judgment on others, but by showing mercy to those already condemned by their own actions. By offering a kindness that was needed but not deserved, we began to breathe the air of heaven. With a river of mercy flowing through our lives we experienced the cleansing promised in the words,
6. BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD. In new motives we found a purity of heart that allowed us to see more of God than we had ever seen before. As we reached out to others with the grace that had been shown to us, we began to see God Himself working in us and through us. As we watched how He loved people we had once considered untouchable, we began to understand why He would say,
7. BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE SONS OF GOD. In the cause of peace we found a purpose that reflected the heart and ways of our Father. As we began to see others as people for whom Christ died, we saw how important it was to avoid any alignments or associations that would distract from our mission. Yet because we knew others would misunderstand us as they misunderstood Him, we took courage in the words,
8. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN THEY REVILE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU, AND SAY ALL KINDS OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FALSELY FOR MY SAKE. REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD, FOR GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN, FOR SO THEY PERSECUTED THE PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU. In the promise of eventual reward we were reminded that there is a price to be paid for being faithful to our King. Yet if we had to be resented we wanted to be resented for the mission He had entrusted to us. While there are many worthy moral and political causes, we knew that, in the end, there would be only one battle that mattered. With this confidence and conviction of mind,
WE THEREFORE hold this principle to be self-evident:
THAT what is best for ourselves and for our neighbors does not begin with a change of circumstances, but with a change of heart. And,
THEREFORE, WE RESOLVE with the help of our God to make the attitudes of our King the manner in which we seek to relate not only to our friends, but to our enemies as well—for the honor of our King, and for the good of all, for whom He died. —Mart De Haan