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Beautifully Broken Hearts – 3/17/24

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Beautifully Broken Hearts – 3/17/24


Peter Hubbard


March 17, 2024


Matthew, Matthew 5:7-9



I don’t often read a book twice (just because I have way too many I’m trying to get to), but I did read The Boys in the Boat again leading up to the end of the year last year, knowing the movie was coming out. I was super excited about that and thought, I’ve got to go through this again.

The movie was okay. If you want to enjoy the movie, don’t read the book. No, it’s not against the book. It’s just the book is just too good— the way Daniel James Brown weaves ominous World War II history together with intriguing sports psychology and brutal athletic physicality, all woven together with a very moving, personal, true story.

The book is the true story of the nine men from the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin under the shadow of Adolf Hitler. That’s a story in and of itself, but many of these guys came from abject poverty and had to overcome some insurmountable odds. Let me just give you one example.

The main example, Joe Rantz (I’ve talked about him before), lost his mother to throat cancer when he was four. His father remarried and his stepmother rejected him several times. He was sent away from the family—either practically living alone or not far from the family, still had some contact—but when he was 15, his family literally drove away and left him alone. He put himself through high school and was able to get into college.

Several years later, when he was at the University of Washington, he realized that his family didn’t live far from him. But they did not want him to know that. They did not want him to be able to get with his stepbrothers, whom he was close to. His fiancé Joyce, who had known him and his family since they were kids, didn’t understand. How can a father do this to his son? How can a mom abandon a boy?

Joe defended his parents— “You don’t understand. They didn’t have any choice. There were just too many mouths to feed.”

But Joyce was still baffled. “I just don’t understand why you don’t get angry.”

Joe explained.

“It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I’ve just gotta take care of it myself.”

This conversation reveals a couple things. One is Joe’s stunning unwillingness to become bitter. To hold resentment. To cling to hurt. To carry around any cargo, any extra freight of anger and resentment and regret and hurt. But at the same time, it also reveals that resolve of “I’ve just gotta take care of it myself,” “I’m not going to look to or depend on anyone else.” That survival instinct that kept Joe alive growing up also contains within it a lethal dose of self-reliance that actually cost Joe his seat on the crew.

He was taken off the top boat until a boat builder named George Pocock explained to him that when he watched Joe row, it looked like he was the only guy in the boat, and Joe was a beast of a rower. But he said to him, it looks like you’re trying to carry that boat by yourself across the finish line. As admirable as that may feel, it’s not going to work.

He explained,

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized… And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting his feelings hurt.”

Pocock concluded with a remark that Joe would remember for the rest of his life. He said,

“Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you had rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.”

Joe did open up his heart to those other boys. He was placed back on the top boat and that crew did row among the stars, all the way to gold. But the paradox that Pocock described is one of the most difficult in life.

If we close our hearts, it feels much safer. Life becomes much more manageable. We can keep people at arm’s length, and we can decide what they know about us and what they don’t. But eventually, it will suffocate our souls. If we open up our hearts, we are vulnerable and we will be hurt. People will leave. People will fail. People will inadvertently or on purpose harm us. But we will not suffocate our souls, and it can lead to a very different kind of life.

Jesus hits on these kinds of paradoxes in what is commonly called the Beatitudes. He is describing the identity of those who live in his kingdom. Look at the paradoxes.

Number one, we looked at a few weeks ago— the destitute are participants in the kingdom. Oh, I want to be destitute. It’s my life ambition. I want to be poor in spirit. Well, theirs is the kingdom. Number two, the shattered will receive comfort. Those who mourn. The gentle will inherit the earth. The longing for righteousness will be satisfied. And today we pick up with Beatitude number five. We’re going to cover the next three.

The challenge with this is each one of these can feel like a message in itself, so I want us to mull over one question: what would it look like for me today to open my heart a little more? As we walk through these, the Spirit I believe is going to speak in different ways to different ones of us as we open our hearts to God and to one another.

So number five, here we go: the compassionate will receive mercy. Verse seven,

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

To be merciful implies someone you know has hurt you or needs compassion from you. It’s going to cost you something emotionally or in other ways. Jesus repeatedly links the expression of mercy to the experience of mercy. And every day, if you pray the Lord’s Prayer, you’re reminded of this: forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. The link between showing mercy, experiencing mercy, our readiness to express mercy reveals the reality of our experience of mercy.

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells us of two debtors. Debtor #1 owed the equivalent of $20 million to the king. Debtor #2 owed the equivalent of $2,000 to debtor #1. Debtor #1 went to the king and pleaded for forgiveness. The king opened up his heart at great cost, was moved with compassion, and forgave debtor #1. Debtor #1 went and strangled debtor #2, grabbed him by the throat, forced him to pay. Debtor #2 couldn’t pay. Debtor #1 threw him in prison. So, the king, when he heard about this, called debtor #1 back in and said to him, Matthew 18:32,

“You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

That’s it. You experienced mercy. Why wouldn’t you express mercy?

The word mercy there is the same word Jesus is using in the Beatitudes. And so, the king delivered debtor #1 to debtor prison. And Jesus said, Matthew 18:35,

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Does that mean we’re trying to earn forgiveness by forgiving others? No. He’s saying, if you’ve opened up your heart to receive mercy, how can you not open up your heart to share mercy? It just makes no sense.

In saying this, we are not saying— and this is where people’s minds immediately run: do you think showing mercy is instant, automatic, easy, consequence-free? No, no, no, no. But there is an inseparable link between experiencing mercy and expressing it. And if I’m struggling to express it, then I need to review my experience of it.

Think of mercy like a debit card. If I have no money, no mercy to share with others, then somehow, I am not experiencing mercy because God, Ephesians 2:4, is described as “rich in mercy.” God has so much mercy he will never run out. If you’re short on mercy, check your direct deposit and see if you’re getting it. If you’re not getting it, you’re not going to have it to give. This is not like Joe said, “I’ve just gotta take care of it myself.” No, we have to feed on his mercy so we can give it, and God is ready to give it.

Look at Lamentations 3:22,

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

So, start each morning in the secret place. We’re going to talk about that in chapter six. Go to the secret place meditate on the mercy of your father. And as you meditate on that mercy, it’s not just a fly-by, “oh yeah, I heard a sermon on mercy, and I grew up and I know about it,” but meditate on the mercy. Recalibrate your taste buds to love the taste of mercy because resentment is like junk food. It’s addictive and it tastes good.

What are the top three addictive foods? What’s number one? According to a, I’m sure, scientific study on the internet: pizza is number one. What’s number two? Chocolate and chips are number three. Then cookies and ice cream. If it tastes good, it’s bad for you. Woo! But it’s addictive. Not in a formal sense, but in an informal sense. Like when you eat it, you want more. Resentment is like that. Bitterness is like that.

You know those little inner conversations, dialogs you have where you’re putting that person in his place? That drop mic moment we show her she’s wrong, you’re right. Those kind of inner conversations taste really good and they will suck your soul. It will kill you. And so, when we meditate on his mercy, we are reminded, Lord, look what you’ve given me. I have this debit card chock full of mercy. Today I get to spend lots of mercy on my neighbors, whoever needs it, anybody who needs the mercy. I am rich in mercy because my father is rich in mercy. But if we’re not feeding, we’re not sharing. And it takes time. Just like we rehearse hurts and we become characterized as a person who is a victim, who’s just ready for everybody to hurt us. What God is talking about here is we rehearse mercy and we’re ready to pass it on. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Number six, the pure will see God. Verse eight, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” That word “pure” (katharos) can mean (Barclay has three different uses) “spotless,” as in no dirt, free from soiling or sin. It can mean “sincere,” as in no duplicity, free from hypocrisy and falsity. Or it can mean “singular,” as in no distractions, free from diversions or inattentiveness.

The heart, from a biblical perspective, is our control center (mind, emotions, and will). It’s who we are at the core. So, what Jesus is saying in my kingdom (favored ones) are the ones whose control centers (who we really are) are pure, spotless, sincere, singular. They are the ones who will see God.

Two obvious conclusions from this. Number one, this promise is humanly impossible. As we sang this morning from 1 Timothy 1:17,

“Immortal, invisible, God only wise / In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.”

You can’t see a spirit. But as we see in passages like Exodus 33, God is able to manifest himself to us. But our problem isn’t just God is invisible, it’s also we are incapable. It’s God’s invisibility and our depravity. Hebrews 12:29 says,

“For our God is a consuming fire!”

He consumes what is wrong in his presence. Seeing manifestations of God is like viewing the sun times billions. His holiness is untouchably hot, unseeably bright.

Psalm 24:3 says,

“Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”

Who has that? His promise is humanly impossible, but it is divinely possible.

Think about the miracle of the new covenant. Ezekiel 36:25,

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Tender heart. God does this through his Anointed One, something we could not do on our own.

Hebrews 10:19 describes this:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

We can be pure by the grace of Jesus, and therefore, we can see God.

The New Testament makes it clear this is, as we’ve talked about with the Beatitudes, it’s a “now and not yet.” We saw this in 1 John last year:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

One more. Number seven, the peacemakers will be called children of God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Let me give you a great definition of peacemaker: one who makes peace. Yeah. Brilliant. This is the only time in the New Testament that this adjective appears.

I think one of the best ways to understand peace-making is to understand the opposite. Peace-breaking is kind of obvious. A more subtle form is peace-faking. The peace-faker poses as the peacemaker but is not anything like the peacemaker. What is the peace-faker? It’s one who appears to make peace. Here are some examples.

The politician who exchanges truth for peace. Who is one of the most famous examples of this in history? Any ideas? Too many options. Neville Chamberlain. We’re going back a little bit. 1938. When he returned from meeting with Hitler, he waived the Munich agreement before an adoring country. He spoke these now infamous words,

“I believe it is peace for our time.”

Right before World War II. Lord Lloyd was in the cheering crowd. His heart sank. He said of Chamberlain,

“He had sold honor to buy peace.”

That’s a peace faker!

The parent who bribes his toddler not to have temper tantrums is peace-faking. That attitude of that little toddler will reappear as a teenager in not-so-pretty ways. The businessman who alters financial statements to placate investors— peace-faking. The pastor who avoids sensitive topics to appease the congregation, if it’s convicting or controversial, will steer clear— peace-faking.

Jeremiah touched on this when he said in Jeremiah 6:14,

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace.”

Peace-faker. So, if that’s a peace-faker, what’s a peacemaker? Three things.

Number one, a peacemaker sees the size of peace. In the Hebrew scriptures, the idea of peace is much bigger than momentary tranquility. What’s the word? The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom,” and its uses, its semantic domain is huge. I want to show you some of these uses that give you a glimpse of how big this word is.

For example, shalom is translated as “prosperity” in Psalm 73:3. Health, in Psalm 38:3. Harmless, that is, absence of harm, safety, unity (that is, healthy relationships). Welfare in Jeremiah 29:7.

“Seek the welfare of the city.”

That’s shalom, seek the “shalom,” the well-being of the city. Salvation in Isaiah 53:5. The correction or the discipline of our shalom was upon him. Jesus paid the price for our peace, so the overall idea of shalom is wholeness. Things are as they are intended to be. That’s shalom.

When we talk about the size of peace, we can’t just think of an isolated ideal. Do you remember that last week we talked about G.K. Chesterton? Christian virtues gone mad, wandering alone. No. Peacemakers see the size of peace. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. God is bringing about shalom. And so therefore, we’re not willing in the moment to compromise this massive view of peace just to get instant tranquility. That’s peace-faking. So, a peacemaker sees the size of peace and is living within a much larger story.

Secondly, a peacemaker knows the source of peace. It’s not something we conjure up within ourselves. Numbers 6:24-26 is the priestly blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you [shalom] peace.”

He is the source of peace. There is no other source of peace. The Father is called the

“God of peace” (Hebrews 13:20).

The Son is the

“Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Who is

“making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

“For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).

The spirit is bearing the fruit of peace in us (Galatians 5:22). So, it’s no wonder peacemakers are called children of God because the family resemblance is unmistakable. When you see a peacemaker, you know what family they belong to. A peacemaker knows the source of peace.

Then, third, a peacemaker pursues the spread of peace. Pretty much everyone you talk to says they want peace. Hamas wants peace. If you read their charter, as soon as every square inch of Muslim land is “liberated,” there will be peace. The abusive father wants peace, just wants his family to be under control. The manipulative mom wants peace, “When I feel like my family is manageable, we’ll have peace.” But there are ways of going about seeking peace that actually create chaos. They actually dismantle peace in the name of pursuing it.

James, the half-brother of the Lord, talks about this same thing when he contrasts peace, true peace pursuing and fake. Or what he touches on is fake wisdom compared to true wisdom. Wisdom from below that results in utter chaos and wisdom from above that produces real peace. Look at the wisdom from below:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

You’re going to notice so many of the same themes Jesus is talking about in the Beatitudes, James is talking about here.

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, [there will be chaos].”

That’s the word for chaos:

“disorder and every vile practice.”

Chaos and corruption.

False wisdom produces a harvest of chaos,

“but the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy”

See all the same themes Jesus is talking about.

“full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Peacemakers will ultimately— It’s not instant. Just like any other harvest, it takes rain and weeding and time, but it will bear a harvest of righteousness that peace-breaking and peace-faking can only dream of. Anger, bitterness, resentment, selfish ambition, manipulation, unforgiveness will all ultimately produce harvests of unrighteousness, chaos, and hysteria.

Let’s go back where we started: Joe Rantz. “I just gotta take care of it myself” is oozing with insecurity (for obvious reasons), distrust, antagonism. Back then, it was obvious in the boats, the conflicts. He had to open up his heart to the other boys, care about them, risk trusting them. He did, and things started to change. I think this little space of that boat forms a parable for us of the kingdom because, when they began trusting each other, all that strength that was heading in different directions suddenly was harnessed toward the same end.

George Pocock describes what that’s like. Later he said,

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when that rhythm comes— that ‘swing’ as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight; it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

You all have tasted that. Maybe not in an eight, but you’ve been on a team. You’ve had cleaning parties at home. Worked on a group project at school— no, that never works. But there are times where we taste that kind of thing, where everyone becomes less concerned about how they individually appear and become captivated with the goal much bigger.

What Jesus is talking about— in my kingdom, there is a shriek of delight, a blessedness, a kind of joy that comes in a way you would never predict through a poverty of spirit, to a mourning and a meekness, through showing mercy to someone who doesn’t deserve it. To humbling our heart and realizing we don’t have a purity of heart in and of ourselves, but Jesus took our place. He does what we can’t do. To being a part of peacemaking in context, at work, in the hospital, in the schools, in the neighborhoods, in the homes that are fragmented. Shattered. So much pain. So much loneliness today.

The vision Jesus is casting is so beautiful many of us can’t even imagine it. Just seems like, well, that’s for someone else. I want to go back to our original question: what would it look like for you to open your heart up a little this morning?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago from Hebrews 3,

“Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Some of us have been hurt one too many times, and the walls are up. We have lost sight of the fact that by building those walls around our hearts, we are only entombing ourselves, suffocating our own souls. God is saying, open up your heart. My kingdom is characterized by people, citizens with open hearts. Yes, our hearts have been broken. Yes, we’ve seen our own sinfulness, and we’re well aware of the sinfulness of others. But the King is calling us to something far more delightful, blessed. So, what would that look like for you?

For some of us, it’s maybe for the first time turning to God for mercy through Jesus. Some of us, it’s turning for the 10,000th time this week for more mercy, and God is rich in mercy. For others of us, it is being willing to pass that mercy on to someone else, and not become a mercy culdesac as we draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith, as we reject peace-faking. For some of us, opening up our heart would be, “Okay, I’m done being so consumed with managing my reputation like I am the masterpiece faker. Everything’s fine. And for the first time, I’m going to be willing to say everything is not fine. I need help. Would you pray for me? Could I talk with you? Would you go with me to get help?” Whatever the Spirit is saying to you, I want to pause now for a few moments so that we can quietly hear. I believe the Spirit brings us together because he has something to say to us. So, let’s take a moment to listen. What would it look like for you to open your heart?

Father, it seems so easy to close our hearts. I could feel it happened several times this week. It feels safer. But it is lethal. So, first of all, thank you that you are a Father who is rich in mercy because we spend your mercy. We need it. I pray that all of us this morning would receive the mercy that you are so generous to give us through Jesus. And I pray for some of us who know we need to pass some of that along today, that you would give us grace as we meet with someone, or text someone, or write a letter. Please, Lord, may we be a people characterized by experiencing and expressing mercy. And even as we do that, we know it is super complicated when we’re interacting with someone who is highly manipulative. There are people who love to gobble up mercy and just spit it back. To use and abuse it. We know you will grow us in the wisdom from above. To know how to love well and not be manipulated. Thank you for the wisdom you give us. Thank you for the gift of purity that comes through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. As we behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus, Lord, you are transforming us from inside out. We pray that you would grow us as a community of peacemakers, that we would not be peace-breakers who are characterized by selfish ambition, greed, stubbornness, anger. Nor would we be peace-fakers who are good with just pretending but truly peacemakers. And I thank you right now that you are drawing our hearts to you. We draw near. The two hearts full of assurance. We thank you. In Jesus name, amen.