Matthew 5:21-48; Luke 6:27-36
The True Intention of the Law
Today we come upon verses that truly test our strength of character. Indeed, most would admit that they could not live up to these standards, and the rest who said they could, I fear would be lying. There are two things that are happening here that I need to talk about: 1) Once again Jesus declares his authority to definitively interpret the Law. He repeats over and again, “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you….” No scribe, no Sadducee, no Pharisee would have ever spoken this way. But Jesus had the audacity to do so. It has been said, and rightly so, that people may call Jesus either Lord, lunatic, or liar; what they may NOT say is that he was a nice guy or just a prophet. He claimed to be much more than that. If he wasn’t the Lord, then he was one of the other two.
And, 2) Jesus gives the real intention of the Law. The “tradition of the elders” had majored on minors – whether you could carry your bed on the Sabbath, or how far you could walk. Jesus gave the spirit of the Law – which, surprisingly, makes even the letter look easy: Thou shalt not kill means that if you call your brother, “fool,” you’re in danger of hellfire. You thought you could lust after her all you wanted as long as you didn’t sleep with her? Think again. (The same goes for you, too, ladies.) We live in a country of “no fault” divorce and upwards to fifty per cent marriage failure! That’s a national disgrace. And matters in the Church are no better, and maybe worse! Yes, Jesus allowed for the exception of infidelity, and Paul allowed for abandonment in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. And common sense says no one should have to live with a person who is threatening. After that, well, everybody thinks their case is an exception. That’s how we rationalize our sin. You think swearing gives more gravity to your word? How ‘bout just tell the truth all the time and no one will doubt you to begin with. And then there is the hardest of all: turn the other cheek, go the second mile with someone demanding, love your enemy. Why? Because God does the same thing, bringing rain on both the just and the unjust, the righteous and the wicked. Besides, even pagans are good to other pagans. People who claim to follow Christ are supposed to be different, peculiar, even strange, to the world’s observers.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Of course it’s impossible. That’s why Jesus came to give his life a ransom for us. But grace doesn’t change the standard (as some think); if anything, it raises it as we now have all the more reason to fulfill it: God’s amazing love.