As I have been working through the Sermon on the Mount, I have been trying to step back and look at the bigger picture. It is easy to dissect and magnify words and phrases to the point we fail to step back and look at the whole and connections between different sections. Before reading the remained of this post, it would be helpful to first read ERASING THE LINES OF RELIGIOUS(osity) – SERMON ON THE MOUNT to get a little more perspective on where this post is coming from. It is kind of a part two, sort of…
So there was Ryan touching the hot plate he was told not to touch; which I am quite sure each of you has done the same at one time or another. The very next week there I was, Ryan’s dad, listening to the waitress at Barrera’s say, “the plate is extremely hot, don’t touch it,” as she sat my fish tacos right in front of me. And of course I touched it. Not real sure why we do this? Do we not believe them? Wanting to see their definition of hot? Why?
I think the bottom line is, there is a line which has been drawn. A don’t do this line! Lines create tension. Lines ALWAYS (I think) create tension. Don’t believe me. Go on YouTube and search Black Friday line jumpers (careful with the language). Want to see serious tension, cut in line on Black Friday. Or for a kindergartner trying to learn to color, there is a tension to try to stay inside the lines.
Some lines are visible. Others invisible.
Don’t touch me or I will _____________! A line? Of course.
If you’re a Cowboys fan, you know there is a constant tension for the offensive lineman to control the line of scrimmage and maybe more difficult to stay on the correct side of the line prior to the snap. Lines create tension because lines create rigidity, boundaries and structure.
Lines create an internal tension. I can’t do this. I can do this. I can touch this. I cannot look at that. I can say this but not that. However, lines can also create external tension. You can’t do this. You can’t go there. This is ok, but not that.
When it comes to religion, there is a tendency for the lines to become even more entrenched because it is something so important to people. There is the internal struggle to stay within the lines, as well as the external struggle as to how others have defined the lines and their desire to impose the lines on everyone else.
Matthew 5:21-48 NIV is spoken within the context of a religious system, controlled by the Pharisees and Sadducees ,who were masters at imposing lines and boundaries on others. Jesus is not drawing new and more difficult lines. He is introducing a new righteousness, not one built on a system of lines but one dependent on grace.
It is the good news, it is the gospel.
It is hope for those who get angry, for those who lust, those who are divorced, those who break their word, those who seek revenge, and those who struggle to love their enemies. But why is it hope, when we know we will fail at most of these from time to time?
Because the message is no one will ever measure up to the lines which have been created, so stop trying to. The new righteousness Jesus is announcing comes from a heart expecting to be transformed by Jesus. A heart seeking his heart, rather than trying to measure up to the lines. It is not the lines that are important; it is the condition of our heart.
Maybe we ask the wrong questions? Where is the line? How close can I get to the line without going over? Where there is a line there is tension.
What constitutes anger?
What is meant by “except for marital unfaithfulness.”
As you know people can get very passionate about these lines.
Is it possible Jesus is saying to these first followers, the religious leaders look great. They follow the laws, sort of, but they are not really righteous; their hearts are messed up. There worth and value is found in how well they measure up to, or at least look like they measure up to the lines. Yes they haven’t killed anyone, but they have still allowed their anger to get out of control. Instead, maybe our focus needs to be, how is this affecting my heart?
Jesus finishes this section with this statement…
Matthew 5:48 NIV
Yes we strive to be like Jesus, but we realize we are perfected by Him, because we will never perfectly measure up to the lines. So who this is righteous, because unless your righteousness surpassing the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
Matthew 5:3-12 NIV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.