We finished our study of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) by going through Matthew 5: 17-48
A lot of people accuse Jesus of trying to wipe out all of the Old Testament Jewish Laws, but He makes it clear in verses 17-20 that He didn't come to get rid of any of it. As Christians, we know that what He did was to fulfill it perfectly, something that we never could no matter how hard we tried. We can't ever be perfect enough, THAT's why we need Jesus.
Jesus uses some sarcastic hyperbole to drive this point home. In verses 21-26 he lets us know that anger, hate, and even name calling are just as bad as actual killing. (hyperbole? Look it up yourself at www.m-w.com, basically He was being a smart-Aleck).
Compare Matt 5:24 with being a Peacemaker that Jesus talked about in Matt 5:9 and the reconciliation that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.
In the same style of sarcasm, Jesus lets us know that lust is no less a sin than full fledged adultery in verses 27-30 and that we can't just weasel out of a marriage because we're bored of it in verses 31-32 (don't wig out, He's not saying that if one spouse is cheating, or abusing the other or a total crack-head that you shouldn't get divorced) He was trying to make a point to people who thought they were better than everybody else that none of us are perfect.
In verses 33-37 He tells us to just be sincere, honest and have integrity, rather than trying to make our promises sound more serious by swearing on our mother's grave, saying "I swear to God" or "cross my heart and hope to die." We'll have a lot more credibility if we just keep our word.
As a political lefty, the rest of Matthew 5 is one of my favorite parts of the Bible. What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?) I'll tell ya what He'd do, Matthew 5:38-42!-
Some people like to defend war, the death penalty and getting even with people by saying that "the Bible says 'An eye for an eye'," but Jesus says "I tell you, Do not resist an evil person."
Sounds a little revolutionary. Some people say it sounds weak- but Jesus is anything but weak, like the County song says, He's "tougher than nails." If it's good enough for Jesus, why isn't it good enough for us? Martin Luther King Jr used it to eliminate segregation.
Verses 38-42 is where we get the following idioms, There's from Jesus, not Ben Franklin or Bill Shakespeare-
- Turn the other cheek
- Give 'em the coat off your back
- Go the extra mile
- Don't turn anyone away
Then there's the REALLY revolutionary stuff; verses 43-48, all that "Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you" stuff. Anyone can love their friends, but it takes real work to love your enemies. Sound like nonsense? Remember, love is not a feeling, it's not a reaction, it's an action, a way of treating people (see 1 Corinthians 13).
It makes you wonder... what if after 9/11, instead of invading Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11 anyway) instead we promoted democracy in Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Gave financial aid to Palestine? Helped negotiate peace and eliminate the slave trade and genocide in Darfur? Built schools and hospitals in Jordan and Lebanon? Provided food aid to Ethiopia and Chad? Promoted women's rights in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates? Why not a Peace Corps like JFK came up with? Look how the Marshall Plan after WWII made Europe love us?
Okay, okay, too political, too liberal-Democrat. Sorry, I know I promised not to do that in the high school Bible Study part of this blog.
But think about this; What if the next time someone shoved you in line or grabbed your hat and tried to play keep-away, or called you a name, or gave you the finger, or spread a rumor about you on MySpace or FaceBook- what if every time someone did something bad to you, you exercised Matt 5:38-48? What if?
Even if they didn't feel guilty about treating you poorly, even if it didn't take the fun out of it for them, if nothing else, it would make them look bad for being such jerks and you would look like you're way more mature and self controlled.
And don't forget, part of that is PRAYING for them. God does most of His best work when people bother to pray. Even if your enemies didn't change, prayer changes you. Try it, I DARE you.