Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Last night I went to the cinema with my wife, Claire, to see Selma. This is a fascinating film that tells the story of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s attempts to enable African Americans to exercise their right to vote. Led by Martin Luther King, the SCLC sought to organise a march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama, to highlight their cause to George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama. This was no easy feat, since their efforts were hampered by many of those in positions of authority. Despite the non-violent nature of the protests, the authorities frequently turned violent, leading to the brutal deaths of many of those involved. What impressed me so much about the story was the way in which the Church was willing to stand up for the moral rights of African Americans, and to help the downtrodden to gain their political freedom. For me, it represented just one more example of Christians standing up for the oppressed and taking a stand to transform the world in which we live.
In this beatitude, Jesus tells us that the people of God will ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’. They will strive to live in a way that is worthy of God, a way that represents and mirrors his righteousness. Being righteous, of course, is not what gains us entry to God’s kingdom; that can come only through acknowledging and repenting of our sins, and pledging ourselves to Christ. Having given ourselves to Christ, however, we should choose to live righteously. We should, in fact, ‘hunger and thirst’ for righteousness. Being righteous should be a key focus of our lives.
What does this look like? What does it mean to be righteous? There is of course a personal element here. We should devote our lives to serving Christ personally. We should seek to avoid sinfulness and strive for purity of thought and action. We should ensure that our love of Christ guides us through every decision we make and in every interaction with others. We should stand out as followers of Christ to those around us, marking ourselves as different to the wider world. By extension, though, we should seek to establish God’s righteous kingdom in the world. We should be leading proponents of social action, serving those who are less fortunate than ourselves, speaking up against injustice, and enabling all of our fellow humans to know God’s love. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference saw a social ill and set about trying to change the situation, to make things right. This kind of action must surely be a crucial element of our calling.
Our hunger and thirst for righteousness won’t be satiated until Christ comes again in glory. It is at this point that we ‘will be filled’. I wonder how hungry and thirsty we feel at the moment, though? Are we aware of our hunger and thirst? Or are we more attuned to the world in which we live rather than the Kingdom of Heaven, and therefore fail to notice that hunger and thirst for righteousness deep within us. Jesus is clear that a blessing awaits those whose deepest desire is to see God’s righteousness reflected in the world; we will gain spiritual fulfilment in his kingdom. Why not pray today that you will hunger and thirst for righteousness? Why not pray that you will be motivated to strive for personal and social righteousness right now?