Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sermon on the mount part 4

Now Jesus goes on to define morality in the kingdom. This is very important to understand as we noted in the last message, everything is getting turned on its head here. If our righteousness must exceed the pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, yet they kept the law religiously, then what is this new form of righteousness, or morality. In fairness there is a bit of a understanding of justice in a Hebrew understanding of righteousness, but this would already be known by the people. So just what are we talking about.

Jesus begins by talking about murder. Under the law it is wrong to murder, and if you murder someone you will be judged. But in the kingdom Jesus tells us that it is not only your actions towards your brother but the thoughts and words you have towards your brother that will condemn you. It becomes more than just a matter of your actions but a matter of your heart.

Jesus tells us that we should repair these relationships with our brothers and sisters, and even tells us that this is more important than religious ritual. Again saying that your rituals are not important, if your heart is not right.

Then he moves on to our sexuality. I saw a cartoon once where Moses comes down the mountain with the ten commandments and says, "I have good news and bad news", as everyone looks up expectantly he tells them, "the good news is I got him down to ten, the bad news is... adultery is still in". In regards to our sexuality, Jesus again tells us, it is said under the law that your actions will make you guilty or innocent, but in the kingdom, it is your heart that matters. Lusting after a woman is like commiting adultery in your heart. I know that is not what most of us men want to hear. It might make the girls feel better that Jesus doesn't specifically say you can't lust after a man, or even a woman for that matter, but I reckon its implied. It is our heart that is at issue here.

Then Jesus says a statement that has been misunderstood and actually regrettibly acted on in some severe moments of guilt. He says if your eye causes you to stumble pluck it out, or if your hand causes you to stumble cut it off. This use of hyperbole, it a teaching device to help us understand the point. The point is, sin is a matter of the heart, not our bodies. Our bodies do what our heart and mind tell us to do. Your eye cannot make you sin, and neither can your hand, but your heart and mind can and do. Jesus makes a nonsensical statement to help us get it.

He then goes on to tell us, stop with the pretense. No need for swearing, just do what you say you are going to do. If you say yes, you should be of enough integrity that that means yes, and the same with no. When you have to resort to swearing on your mothers grave, you are basically saying, "well I am usually a liar, but now I will tell the truth" it is all stupid Jesus tells us.

The key here is that morality becomes an issue of personal integrity, of our heart, and our mind. It becomes more than just an outward following of rules and regulations, of lists of do's and don'ts, but becomes a desire to follow the king, be the light of the world, and live in our world as a restorative, and pleasing flavour.



David said...

So Jesus is saying that people should internalise morality so that it becomes something we instinctively desire to do, rather than something we are required to do through threat of legal sanction.

Either way, we're still following a moral law. And isn't the outcome the same also?

For example, what does it matter that I refrain from killing people because of fear of the legal consequences, or that I refrain from killing people because I have developed a natural internal moral dislike for killing? The result is the same isn't it - I don't kill people.

The Rev said...

Sure david the same outward result, but the difference is we live different lives when we seek to change on the inside, rather than being angry uptight repressed people.