Friday, August 30, 2013

Jesus' high standards from the Sermon on the Mount

There are situations where I find myself with people whom I wish I could just give a nod and leave them there, giving them their last word. But I can't and won't. I would still sit through it no matter what is lashed at me.

Pastor Marvin has been preachingand is still preachinga sermon series on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7) and I have committed to do my daily devotion with R. Kent Hughes's The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word), studying, meditating and praying on these most radical and revolutionary lessons from Jesus.

I have been steeped in weekly and daily lessons on anger and hatred and revenge. As such, when I was confounded in this situation with this difficult person, it is a hard lesson. I have gotten so frustrated. In times of frustration, I resort to writing as a therapy and I must confess, it wasn't nice things that I wrote. No expletives, no crudeness, plain old wit but not good.

But my question is, can't I regard it like an imprecatory psalm, which I have done before here. 

The answer I found, is no, I can't.

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matt 5:21-22, NIV)

Hughes said, "the Israelites...felt that God's direction of their historic relations with other peoples, such as his command to exterminate the Canaanites and the imprecatory Psalms, supported (even called for!) this hatred of others. What they failed to take into account was the fact that those and similar commands, including the imprecatory Psalms, were judicialnever individual." (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word), Crossway, 2001: p.140) (emphasis mine)

As much as I have done it not out of hatred but as a therapy for my frustration, the fact that I have thought it, it is like I have committed murder and will be liable for the same judgment.

pearlie

17 comments:

Susan said...

The following is a quote from Walking In The Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg: "Believe it or not, you can commit a sin of speech without even saying a word. When someone says, 'Well, you wouldn't want to hear what I think of so-and-so,' all you need to do is roll your eyes and smirk knowingly. Any eyebrow raised in disdain or a lip curled in disgust unmistakably communicated your ill opinion of someone else." AND "We should guard not just our own words, but even the words that we cause others to speak!" This puts it on an entirely deeper level for sure.

Kansas Bob said...

I love the way that Jesus shows us the heart of the Father in these verses. It is as if He is say:

"I know that you thought that you heard Him order you to kill BUT I tell you that you did not accurately understand the heart of the Father."

It is a message that we all so desperately need to hear and take to heart.

jesusandthebible said...

I think Hughes' comment about hatred and killing Canaanites relates more to Jesus' words in Mt. 5:43, about those who love their neighbor and hate their enemy. So then Jesus changes that former (God-given) way into his new command to love and pray for one's enemies.

Part of the background for loving neighbors while hating enemies is Lev. 19:17-18, where it says not to hate your brother (then defined as "the sons of your own people"), but to love your neighbor as yourself. As for Canaanites (non-brothers), they are enemies to be chased down and killed (Lev. 26:7).

When Jesus talks about murder as including angry words against a brother, words like fool (Mt. 5:22), who is a brother now? In terms of Lev. 19, it would be a fellow-Jew. But in Mt. 12:49-50 Jesus says his disciples are his brothers now. So Mt. 5:22 is about not calling fellow disciples fools. In Mt. 7:26, the fool is the one who hears Jesus' words and does not do them, and faces God's judgment. To call a disciple a fool is to condemn that one as not part of the family, not a true brother. If this is done due to a "speck" in the eye of a brother (as in Mt. 7:1-5), then the one condemning the brother has a big log in his eye, and is the one in danger of judgment.

If this is the correct understanding of Mt. 5:22, then when Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees fools in Mt. 23:17, he is not murdering them. For they are not his disciples, his brothers, and they do not even want to hear his words. His words are a warning to them of their judgment. In 23:33, Jesus concludes that they are serpents, a brood of vipers, and asks how they will escape being sentenced to hell.

Kansas Bob said...

"As for Canaanites (non-brothers), they are enemies to be chased down and killed (Lev. 26:7)."

Does this line of exegesis also include the stoning of rebellious children? (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

jesusandthebible said...

My "line of exegesis" acknowledged that such hatred and violence was part of the Old Testament, but then made the most important point that "Jesus changes that former (God-given) way into his new command to love and pray for one's enemies." This exegesis sees the differences between the O.T. context and Jesus' new covenant.

Kansas Bob said...

"Jesus changes that former (God-given) way into his new command to love and pray for one's enemies."

Or perhaps he was helping us all to understand the true nature of God in contrast to the misunderstood writings of Him in the OT? Doubtful that the killing of children (Israeli or otherwise) was ever consistent with the nature of God.

pearlie said...

Susan,
This puts it on an entirely deeper level for sure.

Definitely...and I have rolled my eyes many times over with this person I am referring to :(

pearlie said...

Thanks jesusandthebible for dropping by my blog and commenting. God bless you.

I agree that the brothers mentioned in Matt 5:21-22 refers to fellow disciples, which I did not explain in my post. I am thinking with the command to love our enemies, the first thing we should not do is to say such things in the first place...but there might be some instances that we should...like the imprecatory Psalms...the main point that I am driving towards is that it is judicial and not individual...as I have thought.

pearlie said...

"My "line of exegesis" acknowledged that such hatred and violence was part of the Old Testament, but then made the most important point that "Jesus changes that former (God-given) way into his new command to love and pray for one's enemies." This exegesis sees the differences between the O.T. context and Jesus' new covenant."

Do you then see the OT and NT as distinctively separate by way of the character of God from hatred/violence to love?

pearlie said...

KB,
"Or perhaps he was helping us all to understand the true nature of God in contrast to the misunderstood writings of Him in the OT? Doubtful that the killing of children (Israeli or otherwise) was ever consistent with the nature of God."

I agree that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is also correcting the disciples misunderstanding of God and to further explain what God has commanded. But do you agree that the very nature of God being holy and just and sovereign, he would destroy as well, as he did in the flood and to Sodom and Gomorrah, as there weren't anyone holy (other than Noah and Job)?

pearlie said...

Sorry, not Job but Lot :) as in (other than Noah and Lot).

Kansas Bob said...

My view Pearlie is that Christians are different in the way that we interpret the bible. For we who follow the Nazarene it is all about seeing all of the bible though the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus. So when I contemplate cataclysmic events like floods and earthquakes I do not see them as acts of God. Jesus came to show us the Father. Why look to OT images to define God when we have His exact image in the gospel accounts?

pearlie said...

KB,
Yes, I agree that Christian are different in their interpretation of Scripture. We are finite being trying to understand an infinite God anyway-as long as we all hold on to the gospel of Christ.

I also do not see cataclysmic events as acts of God. But it is challenging to explain why for example deadly tsunamis happen.

But on your statement, "Why look to OT images to define God when we have His exact image in the gospel accounts?", I would disagree because His exact image in Jesus is a fulfillment of the OT and therefore to understand and more full comprehend him in the NT, we need to also look at the OT.

Kansas Bob said...

"His exact image in Jesus is a fulfillment of the OT and therefore to understand and more full comprehend him in the NT, we need to also look at the OT"

Interesting perspective when you think of how you started with what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. I do not think that you are saying that Jesus was wrong for disagreeing with OT writings? And apart from the prophetic messianic writings, I do not understand how the OT gives more depth of understanding into the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus? But I may not be understanding what you are saying.

pearlie said...

I am not saying that Jesus disagreed with OT writings, but that he is trying to correct their misconception of the commandments in OT.

"And apart from the prophetic messianic writings, I do not understand how the OT gives more depth of understanding into the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus?"

To me, they do. Maybe not directly but most do. What examples can you give me where you think it does not?

Kansas Bob said...

"What examples can you give me where you think it does not?"

The "commandments" in the OT to commit genocide directly disagree with Jesus' command to love our enemies. Hard to see Jesus endorsing the OT command to stone children and homosexuals to death.

To me these OT passages and a few others project an image of God that is not consistent with the image of God that we see in Jesus Christ. So the challenge is to fully accept the image of God in Christ and not embrace some sort of wrathful entity simply because OT authors sometimes envisioned God that way.

Again though, apart from the prophetic messianic writings, I do not understand how the OT gives one more depth of understanding into the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus. I would appreciate a few verses that you have that might help me understand where you are coming from.

pearlie said...

Yea, this is tough. I am trying to understand it too. Give me some time to gather my thoughts.