A Spanish Lesson

I’m in the process of learning Spanish, and it’s tough.  I can attest that the Lord knew exactly what He was doing at the tower of Babel; when God decides to confuse language so we can’t understand one another’s speech, He does it extremely well! (see Genesis 11)

Two verbs that are commonly used in Spanish but have the same nominal meaning are “ser” and “estar”.  Both of them mean “to be”, so you can imagine how much use these verbs get.  For example, think about how often you say, “I am…”, “I was…”, etc.  So, knowing how each verb is used is pretty important.

“Ser” is used when one is speaking about something permanent, or lasting.  For example, your name is permanent; I’ll always be Brian (well, until we get to heaven, where we’ll all be given a new name; Revelation 2:17) .  Also, your gender is permanent; I’ll always be a man.  (Despite some people surgically changing their gender, they are still a man or woman, as the case may be; God decides this, not us.)  “Estar” is used when one is speaking about something temporary, or referring to location.  For example, “I’m happy”, or “I’m in my house right now”.

As I was learning the difference between these two verbs, I thought about our relationship to Christ.  Which verb would I use in Spanish to say, “I’m a Christian”?  About this same time, I heard a teaching about Matthew 5, Jesus’ sermon on the mount and the beatitudes (which means “blessings”).

The good news is that “ser” would be used when we say we are a Christian, because it describes a permanent condition (“Yo soy Cristiano”).  We are Christians because of what God does:  He gives us new and eternal life, faith to believe the gospel, and love for Him.  This never changes, it is now who we are.  Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, we cannot change who we are.  We are either sinners, which is by nature, or we are Christians by the grace of God.

Likewise, in the beatitudes in Matthew 5, Jesus is describing who Christians are.  Many people misinterpret the beatitudes as things we must do, and if we do them, we receive the blessings.  Jesus describes these blessings as follows:

  •    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  •    4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  •    5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
  •    6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  •    7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  •    8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  •    9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  •    10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  •    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-11)

The people Jesus describes here are those who have been saved.  For example, to be poor in spirit means that you know have nothing to offer God, that you are lacking and are in need.  Such a person needs Christ, and only Christians know they need Christ.  Therefore, a Christian can say, “Yo soy pobre de espiritu.”  Of course, this applies to all of the blessings Christ mentions.

What’s really amazing is that Jesus says that Christians are blessed.  It’s a permanent condition.  It’s not based on our being poor in spirit, or mourning, or being gentle.  These are simply adjectives that describe Christians.  Indeed, it’s the exact opposite of a works based view.  We are not blessed by making our heart pure, for only Christ has a pure heart.  Listen to what Psalm 24 says:

3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
And who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face—even Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
8 Who is the King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle

This psalm makes clear that the King of glory is the one who has a pure heart, the Lord strong and mighty!  We are made pure in heart by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, a permanent condition.  Therefore, I can say, “Yo soy puro de corazon”, and “Todos ustedes son puros de corazon” (you all are pure in heart; or, as we say in Texas, “ya’ll are pure in heart”).

One day, we’ll all speak the same language again, and I won’t have to struggle with Spanish.  Until that day, Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad, because we are blessed.  So, rejoice in your permanently blessed condition.  ¡A Dios sea la Gloria!