Monday, April 21, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 5 (part 2)

Jesus was an incredible revolutionary in His day. We see evidence of that today as He continues His Sermon on the Mount. Through His teachings that we will see today, the concept that stands out is that Jesus wants all of us, not just part of us. This was revolutionary because the leadership of the day wanted Him to speak of how easy it would be to gain salvation. They wanted to know if His coming would lower the standards. Instead, it rasied the standards. Instead of needing to merely commit some sort of sacrifice in the temple of an innocent animal, people now had to give their entire lives over to Christ.

In this section of chapter 5 in Matthew Jesus touches on some very serious subjects. We see His take on murder, adultery, divorce, revenge, and our enemies. The underlying message in each, however, is that love conquers all. Jesus came to this earth not because He had to, but because He chose to out of love. In the warning against murder we see the importance of how love can allow reconciliation before hate turns to murderous rage. In the section on both adultery and divorce we see how love can heal even the most broken of relationships. We are even told to love our enemies, something that can be difficult even for those that are the most caring of individuals.

23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24

Part of repentance is changing one’s own actions. Repentance means absolutely nothing if change does not come with it. Here Jesus is asking us to settle our wrongs between each other as we come to Him to repent of our sin. Hate accomplishes nothing, and can indeed be as dangerous as an act of hatred itself. This is a lesson I have learned from personal experience, as I let my hatred of those who had wronged me control me for a long time. It wasn’t until I faced that hatred and got past it that I began to feel clean in my heart. My hatred accomplished absolutely nothing, and now that it is gone I feel like I can breathe again.

43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? – Matthew 5:43-47

This is one of the most often repeated pieces of Scripture, but it also incredibly revolutionary and powerful. I have heard of a stress relief practice where people are told to do the exact opposite of the reaction they want to give. If someone wants to scream, they are told to whisper. If they want to curse, they are told to bless someone. Jesus introduces this concept here by saying that it is easy to hate our enemies and love our neighbors. What do we gain by this? Jesus asks us what our reward is for loving only those who love us. By loving our enemies, we show the same type of love that Christ shoes us. If we are all dead in our sin, then we have turned against the one, God, who loves us. Christ sees past this, however, and showed His love for us by dying on the Christ. He is merely asking for the same love in return here since we are supposed to be like Christ in our actions.


1. What gifts do we offer God when we haven’t reconciled with others?
2. How have you loved your enemies recently?
3. How much is your own anger choking your life?

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