Category Archives: Meekness

Calvin on the Beatitudes (Part 2 – The Price of Peace)

“Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” -Matthew 5:8-10

“Imagine a man who has been quarreling with everyone and who is impatient and reckless in everything he does. Yet, on hearing some commotion, he turns up and tries to calm things down. ‘Enough!’ he says, ‘Let’s have peace!’ Or supposing he comes upon a riot, he intervenes and cries: ‘Now then, stop all this fighting!’ What authority would such a man have when, one minute, he loses his temper and storms and rages, and the next he tries to make peace with those around him? Understand that, to be peacemakers, we must first and foremost be peaceable ourselves. What exactly do I mean? Remember what was earlier said about the meek: meekness is part of being peaceable. If we are patient, it will not be our fault if we do not live in harmony and peace with other men. Why else do men inflict such suffering on one another, and war among themselves, and fight like cats and dogs, if not because they are impatient? No one can bear to be wronged, and we are so addicted to self-interest that we demand instant satisfaction; if we do not get it, we immediately take off the gloves. Then come recrimination and hostility, which turn to mortal hatred and the wish to kill and murder, with no one being spared. That is how impatience prevents men from living peaceably together; that is why we consciously chafe and fret, and why each of us is devil to his neighbor. We must learn, then, to cultivate patience, and so to lay aside self-interest and reputation that we readily forgive the wrongs done to us. That, I believe, is how we can be peaceable.

For the rest, it is not enough for us to avoid giving people cause to injure or trouble us. We must do whatever we can to keep peace among ourselves. That is what we must do, even if it means suffering loss as a result or surrendering some of our rights. For peace should be so precious to us – God after all commends it – that nothing else should matter to us.

Imagine someone who takes care not to stir up trouble or annoy anybody, and who instead tries hard to please everyone: whether he is given a hard time or not; he will gently put up with many wrongs rather than make a fuss. Even so, we are bound to follow our Lord’s precept here, and strive for peace in every place. So it is not enough to refrain from violence, ill-will or injury to others: when someone is wrong, we must resist, when innocent people suffer affliction, we should support them as much as we can, bringing them help and relief. When we see two people at odds with each other, we should feel pity for two souls redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who are in danger of perdition. We should grieve when victory goes to the devil, who is the prince of discord, and when God, who is the author of peace, is shut out. That thought should make us want to put an end to quarreling….We must not only be peaceable ourselves, but must also try as hard as we can to overcome hostility, to put out the fire once it is lit, and to avoid disputes of every kind.  Whenever we see people ready to yield to hatred, we should intervene early to set things right. We should not wait for Satan to win the day; we should get it first. That, briefly put, is what we must grasp.


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Calvin on the Beatitudes (Part 1 – Meekness & Mercy)

I have recently been reading through Calvin’s Sermons on the Beatitudes, which was one of my Christmas presents last year. I’ve found much of the chapter on Meekness and Mercy to be germane to the last discussion on service. In fact, I’ve found the section to be so relevant that I had a hard time selecting which excerpt to include. Rather than waste time wrestling through my decision impairment, I’ve decided to indulge myself and just do a series of posts with excerpts from this section of the book.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst on on account of righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for mercy will be shown them.” -Matthew 5:5-7

“We said earlier that although we are exposed to misfortune, trouble, oppression, and abuse, we can be truly happy because God blesses our sufferings when we look to him. In this verse, the Lord Jesus Christ takes believers one step further, teaching that as well as being meek and patient when we are afflicted, we must be at one with others in their distress, and so touched with compassion for their suffering as to look for ways of helping them, as if their pain were ours. I say again, since God has brought us together in order to make of us one body, all members are necessarily one, and each individual must take his share of suffering, in order to relieve those who can bear no more. That is the truth we must grasp here….And because God has bound us all together, no one can turn away and live only for himself . There is no room here for the indifference which promises tranquility and the pleasures of a comfortable life: we must enlarge our affections as the law of love requires.

So when we see some who are sick or poor or destitute, and others who are in trouble and distress of body or mind, we should say, ‘This person belongs to the same body as I do.’ And then we should prove by our deeds that we are merciful. We can proclaim our pity for those who suffer time without number, but unless we actually assist them, our claims will be worthless. There are plenty of people who will say, ‘Oh dear! How terrible to be like that poor man!’ Yet they simply brush it all aside, making no attempt to help. Expressions of pity stir no one into action. In short, this world is full of mercy if words are to be believed; in reality it is all pretence. St James vigorously condemns this attitude in chapter 2 of his Epistle. It is the height of insolence to say, ‘Ah me, what a shame!’, when no one is willing to lift a finger or even utter a word in order to help the distressed. We must learn, therefore, first to be kind and compassionate toward those who suffer; and then to make diligent use of the opportunities which God affords.”

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