Mark Scandrette talks with Nathan Foster about seeing the world the way Jesus did, the hidden wisdom in the Beatitudes, and applying the Sermon on the Mount to everyday life.

Mentioned Resources

    Show Notes

    Q: What was Jesus doing with these weird sayings, these Beatitudes?

    What’s surprising is who Jesus says has it going on – the poor, those who are mourning, the peasant. He’s saying that whatever your story or struggle, the with God” life is available to you at this moment.

    Q: How do you think it was received by the hearers?

    You had Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots in the crowd. It’s an upside-down message. Similar to how we think today, they thought the wealthy, powerful, attractive and successful are blessed by God. And if you’re poor, suffering, or struggling you are cursed, have done something wrong. But Jesus picked out people who were on the underside of power. It was a huge impact. 

    Q: In your work, you have 2 lines: this is a new way to be human,” and a journey back to reality.” Where do you take the Beatitudes for us today?

    One of the messages is that no one is beyond the blessing. You can look at the Beatitudes as a table of contents for the rest of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) where Jesus talks about life in the Kingdom of God. You’ve got 9 statements – what if he’s naming 9 areas of human experience where we get to experience newness of life in these 9 pain points of the human condition. 

    Q: Could you address this idea of our first instincts and new postures?

    Some of our coping mechanisms are necessary for our early development, but if we don’t transcend them, they become toxic to us. Each of the Beatitudes names a first instinct that we have; if we could see the world as Jesus did and learn to live in his wisdom, what new options would we have for how to live. Here are a few examples: 

    • Our first instinct is to live in closed-handed anxiety. So we have blessed are the poor in spirit” – those who can understand their poverty realize that we can’t make it on our own and need a source of life and energy outside of ourselves. The shift is to move to open-handed trust.
    • Another first instinct is to run away from the painful realities of life. So we have blessed are those who mourn” – embrace mourning because it’s the true path to comfort and solace.
    • Another first instinct is comparison, which leads to competitiveness and insecurity. So we have blessed are the meek” – Jesus points us to our inherent dignity and worth. We move from competition and comparison to honoring that we’re made in the divine image and honoring and serving one another out of that more accurate understanding of our identity.

    Q: Is there one that has been the most challenging or difficult?

    There is information in the appendix that look at the enneagram and the Beatitudes. I’m an enneagram 4, and I have no problem mourning, but what’s hard is being resilient in the face of suffering and struggle. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness or justice” offers the most invitation to me. 

    Q: This gives you a roadmap of where to go — instead of getting lost in some of the negativity, moving toward Jesus’ way.

    When we suffer or struggle, we’re in good company. There’s some comfort in that.

    Q: I’ll read The Sermon on the Mount differently with this framework. 

    One of my motivations for the book was to answer the question: How do I want to live today? I was invited into this project of developing spiritual formation paths around the Beatitudes. Dallas said the Sermon on the Mount is the curriculum for Christlikeness. Each Beatitude is a doorway into what Jesus is going to say about that area of our lives, and then he lives it out in the rest of the gospels. I’m using the Beatitudes as a way of teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, 9 pivots we’re invited to make to surrender our lives and live fully in the kingdom now.

    Q: Is there a movement toward a practical practice as we move into this reality?

    The method in the book is first, let’s name our ache around this area of our lives. So there’s an animating question. The next question is: What are some practices that will help us to live in the reality that Jesus lived in? How can the practices help us live in the kingdom reality? 

    Q: What do you hope for people in reading the book?

    Imagination reawakened for what the beauty and vitality of life with God is like; then make a connection between that and where they are right now; and then consider what is some self-awareness work, daily habits, and new risks that would open them up to experience more of kingdom reality, kingdom consciousness.

    Q: In your travels, what have you picked up from Christians around the world that would be helpful for Christians in the West.

    The Christian community in Bangladesh is less than 1% of the population. Doing some retreats there, it was exciting to see how these themes are universal. One Bishop said, Now I know that I don’t have to wait until I die to experience life in the Kingdom.” Their response to suffering and struggle was inspiring, their joy, and their ability to be peacemakers. 

    Q: This book was born out of practical labs. Can you tell us a little about that?

    I was spending quite a bit of time with Dallas Willard, and I said to him, This is a beautiful picture of life in the kingdom that you paint. How would a faith community live in this together?” His response was, I think a group of people should look at the teachings of Jesus and his example and try to do those things together.” So we created an experimental community where we would try to live out the red letters of Jesus. I wrote a book called Practicing the Way of Jesus. In 2015, Nine Beats Collective asked me to join them (musicians and thought leaders and activists) to talk through the Beatitudes and pain points, and out of that I was able to create a journey through the Beatitudes called The Ninefold Path, based on the stories of groups of people going through that journey.

    Q: What did you notice in these groups that encouraged or surprised you?

    It’s been incredible to see people who have been Christians and in Christian leadership to experience a freshness and vitality in their journey, that it’s brought all the bits of following Jesus into all the parts of life in new ways.

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