Demonstrating God’s Love Together
The challenge, of God’s word – it’s easy to become blasé about the fact of God, alive and active, wanting to address us …
The challenge of Jesus – His character, personality and lifestyle is demanding, and uncomfortably simple …
The challenge of the sermon on the mount – where this is most coherently and effectively expressed …
Difficult to preach on – straightforward and succinct enough and any additional words might only tend to detract.
Redefining the Law - What is ‘Murder’?
In common with his approach throughout this sermon, Jesus takes a piece of given, agreed ‘law’ and examines it; extends it. Challenges us that although we might be innocent of its letter, we are invariably guilty of its spirit.
When it comes to murder, out hands might be clean – but character assassination? That’s a whole different thing. Personal anger, abuse and name-calling (‘Raca’), ridicule and dismissing of others, are cited as akin to shooting or knife-wielding.
We know that gossiping, negativity, a critical spirit can be just as absolutely destructive of relationship and community than anything else … so, what’s to say.
Re-applying the Law -
No Fault Forgiveness…
In the examples suggested, fault is not considered – whose responsibility or where the blame lies is irrelevant … it’s about your reaction.
Taking the Initiative…
More than that it’s assumed that you’re not the aggrieved party but rather you are the one being accused. (v.23) You’re the one being blamed, yet you’re the one who, Jesus suggests, the obligation is on to go and put it right.
Knowing God’s Place…
We’ve talked before about that duel importance of securing a positive vertical relationship, with God, so that we can live out effective horizontal relationships, with each other. Clearly that’s important.
Obviously too, God is in the business of forgiveness and reconciliation, we can receive from him that restoring of all the brokenness that difficulty within relationships can bring, and we need to.
It would be wrong though to reduce this to a purely spiritual matter whereby we might feel right with God once again. Where is God here? He’s not on a separate plane, quite apart from the messy business of human squabbles – he’s in the middle of them. Often to get to Him, His forgiveness, His restoration, you have to go through another. That’s why Jesus says to deviate from your intention to worship, to go first and make amends. Worship cannot be genuinely entered into unless you’ve first done that.
Speed is of the Essence…
‘Settle matters quickly….’ Some things get better by themselves. Relationships don’t. Invariably, the longer things are left the more difficult they become.
These then simple, but profound, rules are the heart of Jesus teaching throughout this sermon. They aren’t easy, they depend upon God’s spirit with us, but they’re genuinely powerful. In the most recent American presidential election Barak Obama inspired many with his slogan ‘be the change you want to see’. If a generation of Christian disciples put as their priority not learning more stuff, or singing more songs but living out the message of this sermon they would change the world – by living out their faith, in action.