SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:21-27
THEME: Mission reconciling relationships
In the past few weeks we have been focusing on passages that come from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. John the Baptized sets this up for us by identifying Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. A provocative insight on the Lamb of God was that the lamb was not used as sin offering but as a marking on the door post as a sign for the Spirit of death to passover. The Lamb of God is the sign of the deliverer and liberator who takes away the sins of the world. Then as Jesus begins to preach, the premiss is that righteousness, brings us into relationship with God. But righteousness is a gift given to us by the grace of
God. Righteousness is not a product of our good effort but an act of God’s grace and forgiveness towards us. So for the beatitudes, there are no prerequisites for us to be blessed but blessedness is a benefit of living under God’s rule. Today’s
passage is a continuation of the sermon on the mount and the implications of living with God’s truth in our lives.
At first there was a list of ten things for us to do. Now Jesus seems to have put on a stricter application of the commandments of God. It is not just don’t murder but don’t be angry, or it is not just to be reconcile with God with an offering, but be reconciled with others before you make an offering. And then not only don’t commit adultery but don’t even lust over anyone beyond your marriage. Then eliminate the reason to swear by anything by always telling the truth. What Jesus is talking about, is taking the Ten Commandments and internalizing them so they are not a bunch of rules to obey, but to live by the will of God from your heart. These are all in regards to fostering a healthy relationship with God and with others. The result of our relationship with God is to have a community of rightful living. Murder is the boundary we are not to cross but Jesus is concern about how anger effect our relationships. So Jesus is telling us to find ways to regulate our anger and to find appropriate ways to deal with our anger. Giving a tithe or offering to God is a way we worship and appreciate our relationship with God, but if our relationship with God does not have an impact in our relationship with others then we need to expand the love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance that God has for us in our relationship with neighbors. This passage has wrongly been applied to the reception of communion. There is no such condition to make things right with a brother or sister before we go to the Lord’s Table for communion. We don’t merit this holy meal, we come because we are invited to it as Christ’s guest. Don’t add another obstacle to people coming to receive grace from God’s gift. If we are being accused of doing something wrong be fair and honest and try to reach some kind of agreement. The amount of of time, wages lost and inconvenience of being in court is best served if we can settle out of court. If not it may take longer, cost more and be more inconvenient than you could ever project.
Adultery is a breach in your marital covenant. Lusting after other people is a betrayal of our marital covenant. Be proactive and treat each other with love and respect. Forgive the hurt the other has cause, chose not to hurt back, and move
The next part of this sermon exaggerates to make a point but is not to be taken literally other wise there would be a lot of one eyed Christians with hooks for hands. Jesus is not literally saying to take out an eye or to cut off a hand. But
what he is saying is exhibit some self control and how your actions effect the relationships around you. Divorce in Jesus’ day was devastating to the women. They lost everything, family, identity, income, home, security, status and pretty much were left impoverished. Women had no rights so Jesus is saying, take this decision seriously, by divorcing your wife, for whatever reason you are literally taking her life.
Then, in the last part, Jesus is saying to tell the truth. Don’t swear by anything to make what you are saying more truthful. We lie only for our advantage, to get something or to get away with something. Trust in God and always speak the
truth so that there will be no question that what you are saying is not a lie but the truth.
Jesus is not initiating anything new but continuing on the theme of our grace given righteousness that enables us to live in relationship with God. What have we learned in our relationship with God that can help us foster healthy
relationships with our neighbors?
Our relationship with God challenges us to love in profound ways. There is long suffering. We will do the unpopular for justice sake. We will do what is seemingly cold, and uncaring to protect others, protect ourselves, create healthy
boundaries and hope and desire the very best for someone else. We have been suffering like a family that has a member who is addicted to drugs. It doesn’t matter if they are from the street or prescribed. We are ready to help, care and rescue, all good and right in normal circumstances, but when the one we love is on drugs, then this not a normal person, but a person on drugs and to love them we have to have a different set of rules. None of us have the expertise to counsel we can only point to professional help, point to God or listen for the purpose of prayer. We can set boundaries for safety sake, for us and for them. We can choose not to rescue in order for real consequences to be the natural result of choices that are made. I had a friend at seminary who told me that he played the role of the rescuer in his alcoholic family. His dad would be drunk as he drove home and crawl on the lawn to sleep. My friend would wake up, pull his dad into the house, dress him for bed. In the morning when he dad would wake up, he would find himself in his bed with no memory of how he got there, not facing up to the consequence of his actions or choices. He realized that although he loved his dad, all he did was prevent him from seeing the consequences of his choices and prolonged that alcoholic behavior.
We want those whom we love to come to the realization that what they are doing is not working and admit that they need help. We need to be truthful with them, not give into their lies, and not enable them so they can get the help they
need. Unusual but all for the purpose of love. Desiring the very best for someone else and at the same time to preserve ourselves from their destructive and disruptive behavior.
Jesus doesn't want us just to live as a person not wanting to get caught by God for doing something wrong. But Jesus wants us to live with God as those who are delivered and liberated to live in relationship with God. The purpose of God’s gift of righteousness is relationship with God. This gives us to freedom to live creativity in our relationship with God. This forms communities that love and care for each other. We have a ministry of reconciliation that keeps our anger in check, is aware of our relationships with others, that resolves conflict, and pursues what is right. We honor our commitments and speak the truth. We maintain covenant relationships of respect and love. We are challenged by love to set boundaries, so the truth can be spoken and wholeness with God can be found.