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A Dry Eyed Church

Some people just don't get it, do they? William Tolar related the following (Reader's Digest, 9/2005, p 134).  “I was sitting in a cafeteria recently, next to a woman who was engrossed in her newspaper. One of the headlines blared: '12 Brazillian Soldiers Killed.' She shook her head at the sad news. Then, turning to me she asked, 'How many is a Brazillian?' " Sounds like she was a cup short of a full cupboard, doesn't it?! Some things call for deeper thinking or you miss the point. Like this statement by Jesus in Matthew 5:4 (chew on these words carefully) — "Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted." Say what, Jesus? "Blessed are those who mourn," or, more plainly, "Happy are those who mourn," or even more plainly, "Happy are the unhappy." Talk about a message that finds few fans these days! Today the pursuit of happiness and pleasure is in overdrive. Our culture seeks to avoid mourning and unhappiness at all costs. Now, the Gospel does not call Christians to a a sad-sack, sour-puss way of life. Joy and the abundant life Jesus provides pop up frequently as you read the New Testament. But still, there is the message expressed in Matthew 5:4 — from the same Lord who often taught His disciples to rejoice!

So what does Jesus mean? Limited space demands I cut to the chase. Context and commentators both point to a sorrow over sin as the motive for the mourning Jesus desires for His disciples. The Greek word for "mourn" (pentheo) is a strong one that refers to the tears and grief and mourning over a departed loved one (Genesis 37:24; Mark 16:10). But here it refers to a tender heart and conscience trained by the word of God and repentance to be sensitive to sin — sin in our own lives and the lives of others close by us, as well as the depraved condition of the world at large. However you slice it, this passage reminds us the Christian life is not all fun and joy and laughter. The Bible is full of tears and grief induced by sin and the painful consequences it brings. From Genesis 3 on, mourning related to sin is a regular part of the Bible's story. Christians and churches are into celebration and praise and joy these days. Still the Bible reminds us our Savior was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus didn't have any sin of His own to mourn, but He often grieved over what sin does to people. As He approached Jerusalem a few days before the cross, Luke tells us, "He saw the city, and wept over it" (19:41). Who weeps over our cities today? The apostle Paul talked a lot about joy, yet he told elders of the church at Ephesus he had served Christ and preached the gospel in their city with "many tears and trials" (Acts 20:19). In Philippians 3:18 Paul admits to "weeping" as he wrote the church at Philippi because many "are the enemies of the cross of Christ," having 'set their minds on earthly things." Are there no enemies of the cross to make us weep today? I'm not asking us to be sad-sacks — Christians can 'rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). I'm just asking, is there no sin for the church to mourn over these days? Jesus wept over evil in the world, and in Matthew 5:4 He promises comfort to those who mourn over how sin affects our relationship with God. Churches are sad and mourn because people are sick — but how often does sin make us sad enough to mourn? God's comfort can't come to a dry-eyed church. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ