From the Sermon on the Mount to the discourse of the Last Supper, Jesus taught his followers to manifest fatherly love rather than brotherly love. Brotherly love would love your neighbor as you love yourself, and that would be adequate fulfillment of the “golden rule.” But fatherly affection would require that you should love your fellow mortals as Jesus loves you.
Jesus loves mankind with a dual affection. He lived on earth as a twofold personality — human and divine. As the Son of God he loves man with a fatherly love — he is man’s Creator, his universe Father. As the Son of Man, Jesus loves mortals as a brother — he was truly a man among men.
Jesus did not expect his followers to achieve an impossible manifestation of brotherly love, but he did expect them to so strive to be like God — to be perfect even as the Father in heaven is perfect — that they could begin to look upon man as God looks upon his creatures and therefore could begin to love men as God loves them — to show forth the beginnings of a fatherly affection. In the course of these exhortations to the twelve apostles, Jesus sought to reveal this new concept of fatherly love as it is related to certain emotional attitudes concerned in making numerous environmental social adjustments.
The Master introduced this momentous discourse by calling attention to four faith attitudes as the prelude to the subsequent portrayal of his four transcendent and supreme reactions of fatherly love in contrast to the limitations of mere brotherly love.
He first talked about those who were poor in spirit, hungered after righteousness, endured meekness, and who were pure in heart. Such spirit-discerning mortals could be expected to attain such levels of divine selflessness as to be able to attempt the amazing exercise of fatherly affection; that even as mourners, they would be empowered to show mercy, promote peace, and endure persecutions, and throughout all of these trying situations to love even unlovely mankind with a fatherly love. A father’s affection can attain levels of devotion that immeasurably transcend a brother’s affection.
The faith and the love of these beatitudes strengthen local character and create happiness. Fear and anger weaken character and destroy happiness. This momentous sermon started out upon the note of happiness.
1. “Happy are the poor in spirit – the humble.” To a child, happiness is the satisfaction of immediate pleasure craving. The adult is willing to sow seeds of self-denial in order to reap subsequent harvests of augmented happiness. In Jesus’ times and since, happiness has all too often been associated with the idea of the possession of wealth. In the story of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple, the one felt rich in spirit egotistical; the other felt “poor in spirit” — humble. One was self-sufficient; the other was teachable and truth-seeking. The poor in spirit seek for goals of spiritual wealth — for God. And such seekers after truth do not have to wait for rewards in a distant future; they are rewarded now. They find the kingdom of heaven within their own hearts, and they experience such happiness now.
2. “Happy are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Only those who feel poor in spirit will ever hunger for righteousness. Only the humble seek for divine strength and crave spiritual power. But it is most dangerous to knowingly engage in spiritual fasting in order to improve one’s appetite for spiritual endowments. Physical fasting becomes dangerous after four or five days; one is apt to lose all desire for food. Prolonged fasting, either physical or spiritual, tends to destroy hunger.
Experiential-righteousness is a pleasure, not a duty. Jesus’ righteousness is a dynamic love — father-brotherly affection. It is not the negative or thou-shall-not type of righteousness. How could one ever hunger for something negative — something “not to do”?
It is not so easy to teach a child mind these first two of the beatitudes, but the mature mind should grasp their significance.
3. “Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Genuine meekness has no relation to fear. It is rather an attitude of man cooperating with God — “Your will be done. “It embraces patience and forbearance and is motivated by an unshakable faith in a lawful and friendly universe. It masters all temptations to rebel against God the divine Spirit leading within your human mind. Jesus was the ideal meek man of our planet Urantia, and he inherited a vast universe of 10,000,000 evolving inhabitable worlds.
4. “Happy are the pure at heart, for they shall see God.” Spiritual purity is not a negative quality, except that it does lack suspicion and revenge. In discussing purity, Jesus did not intend to deal exclusively with human sex attitudes. He referred more to that faith which man should have in his fellow man; that faith which a parent has in his child, and which enables him to love his fellows even as a father would love them. A father’s love need not pamper, and it does not condone evil, but it is always anticynical. Fatherly love has singleness of purpose, and it always looks for the best in man; that is the attitude of a true parent.
To see God — by faith — means to acquire true spiritual insight. And spiritual insight enhances spiritual guidance, and these in the end augment God-consciousness. And when you know the Father, you are confirmed in the assurance of divine sonship, and you can increasingly love each of your brothers in the flesh, not only as a brother — with brotherly love — but also as a father — with fatherly affection.
It is easy to teach this admonition even to a child. Children are naturally trustful, and parents should see to it that they do not lose that simple faith. In dealing with children, avoid all deception and refrain from suggesting suspicion. Wisely help them to choose their heroes and select their lifework.
And then, Jesus went on to instruct his followers in the realization of the chief purpose of all human struggling — perfection — even divine attainment. Always he admonished them: “Be you perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” He did not exhort the twelve to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. That would have been a worthy achievement; it would have indicated the achievement of brotherly love. He rather admonished his apostles to love men as he loved them — to love with a fatherly as well as a brotherly affection. And he illustrated this by pointing out four supreme reactions of fatherly love:
1. “Happy are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” So-called common sense or the best of logic would never suggest that happiness could be derived from mourning. But Jesus did not refer to outward or ostentatious mourning. He alluded to an emotional attitude of tenderheartedness. It is a great error to teach boys and young men that is, humanly to show tenderness or otherwise to give evidence of emotional feeling or physical suffering. Sympathy is a worthy attribute of the male as well as the female. It is not necessary to be callused in order to be manly. This is the wrong way to create courageous men. The world’s great men have not been afraid to mourn. Moses, the mourner, was a greater man then either Samson or Goliath. Moses was a superb leader, but he was also a man of meekness. Being sensitive and responsive to human need creates genuine and lasting happiness, while such kindly attitudes safeguard the soul from the destructive influences of anger, hate, and suspicion.
2. “Happy are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Mercy here denotes the height and depth and breadth of the truest friendship — loving- kindness. Mercy sometimes may be passive, but here it is active and dynamic supreme fatherliness. A loving parent experiences little difficulty in forgiving his child, even many times. And in an unspoiled child the urge to relieve suffering is natural. Children are normally kind and sympathetic when old enough to appreciate actual conditions.
3. “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Jesus’ hearers were longing for military deliverance, not for peacemakers. But Jesus’ peace is not of the pacific and negative kind. In the face of trials and persecutions he said, “My peace I leave with you.” “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” This is the peace that prevents ruinous conflicts. Personal peace integrates personality. Social peace prevents fear, greed, and anger. Political peace prevents race antagonism, national suspicions, and war. Peacemaking is the cure of distrust and suspicion.
Children can easily be taught to function as peacemakers. They enjoy team activities; they like to play together. Said the Master at another time: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life shall find it.”
4. “Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall all manner of evil against you falsely. Rejoice and exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
So often persecution does follow peace. But young people and brave adults never shun difficulty or danger. “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” And a fatherly love can freely do all these things — which brotherly love can hardly encompass. And progress has always been the final harvest of persecution.
Children always respond to the challenge of courage. Youth is ever willing to “take a dare.” And every child should early learn to sacrifice.
And so, it is revealed that the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount are based on faith and love and not on law — ethics and duty.
Fatherly love delights in returning good for evil — doing good in retaliation for injustice.