If you ask people about faith, they’ll often say they are a “good person.” Or something like “well I’ve never killed anybody.”
That isn’t far off from the world view Jesus confronted – an emphasis on the big ticket sins and external acts of righteousness.
How are we made right in God’s eyes? Following the commandments, and temple worship was a big part of that.
Jesus gets to the heart of the commandments – by understanding their intent, He is able to go beyond the basics to give us a wholistic view of how God sees the world.
Jesus teaches us that God is the father of us all, and not only this, but he is a good father. He answers the age-old question: “Is God both all-powerful AND all good?” with his life, death and resurrection. Yes. He is both.
POSTULATE: There is nothing in the universe more valuable to God than each and every human being who has or will ever live.
We are the final act of His creative will.
We are the chief object of His affection.
Fatherhood has given me the tiniest glimpse into this passion – I would move heaven and earth to protect, keep, support, and defend them – right, wrong, or indifferent.
Liam Neeson – “Taken”
Jean Claude: Bryan, you cannot just run around, tearing down Paris.
Bryan: This is my daughter. Jean Claude, I will tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to.
POSTULATE II: In our personal dealings with Him, God cares most about how we treat others.
Good fathers know this too. If you love my kids, you are loving me. If you care for my children, you are caring for me. There is no difference. In fact, you may love me MORE, because you are looking after the people I care most about in the world.
They are not just an extension of me, they ARE me.
In the same way, you CAN’T love me and hate my kids. That puts a serious kink our relationship.
I John 4
20-21 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
1. Words don’t hurt. They kill.
(Matthew 5:21-26 MSG)
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
“Raca” – aramaic word – “Worthless”.
Jesus values us all. He is about to die for each of us. He is about to pay the ultimate price. We are worth far more to Him than many sparrows.
No one is worthless. Many may need to be incarcerated, controlled, rebuked, or contended with. But their soul has inherent worth. Each of us is the “imago dei” – the image of God. The divine spark.
Maybe you’ve never committed murder, but who have you assassinated with careless words?
2. Making it right with people makes you right with God.
(Matthew 5:21-26 MSG)
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
When our relationships are broken, our worship is broken.
“A grudge against you” – but what if they won’t forgive me and still hold a grudge?
Have you made every effort? Have you humbled yourself? Are you willing to lose?
Have you forgiven from your heart?
3. Keep short accounts.
(Matthew 5:21-26 MSG)
“Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.
“Make the first move.” Make things right if you can. Try to live at peace with everyone.
We all mess up. Me with my mouth mostly.
Make it right as soon as possible.
If it’s possible you hurt someone with your words, ask forgiveness.
This is, unfortunately, the most regular spiritual discipline I practice.
I write a lot of long emails. And sometimes have conversations to clarify my emails (because emails have no tone).
This is not only a healthy way to live, it is radical, revolutionary, and the fruit of a changed life.
In the end, we call come to Jesus because he loves us. Love is the reason. There is no fear in love. Love will lead people to the cross.
What about this teaching is challenging or difficult to accept?
Jesus gave this command: “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Who is my “brother” or “sister” in this command? Could it be limited to other believers?
Can you think of a “long account” you have (someone who has something against you). Why has it lasted so long? Do you still believe change is possible?
ONE MORE THING
Did you notice that there is no discussion of your rights, your needs, your feelings? It’s all about others.
ROMANS 13 Love Fulfills the Law
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.