This coming Sunday, 2/12, is the third Sunday in our sermon series, "Living the Kingdom Lifestyle." The focus is "Maturing in Kingdom Relationships. This bit of text from Matthew challenges us in our relationships. Here it is;
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
This segment certainly contains some of Jesus' more difficult teachings. Jesus dramatically elevates the standard of Kingdom behavior and relationships. At first glance, it might seem that Jesus is actually making things more difficult; that he is simply adding more rules to follow. I believe Jesus is doing something entirely different from that. Jesus is ordering a fundamental re-orientation of what it means to be in relationship, and he is communicating the truth that externals are the result of internal processes. You see, instead of more rules, Jesus is telling us to quit focusing on the externals, and instead examine the internal motivations, thoughts, values, from which the externals necessarily flow. Remember, Jesus taught this in Luke 6:45: "A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (NLT)"
What are your first thoughts on reading this bit from the Sermon on the Mount?