Thursday, February 9, 2017

Preparing for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - Matthew 5:21-37

Matthew 5:21-37New International Version (NIV)

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[f] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

So after 2 readings to remind us of the importance of God's decrees and prioritizing God in our life, and after a reading where Paul is exhorting the church to grow in their discipleship by moving from milk (the simpler things) to meat (the more complex things), we have this text in Matthew that seems to hammer it all home.  The overarching theme here seems to be that following the law (the decrees of God) has greater ramifications than we think. 
We say, for example that we love God yet curse our neighbor (Raca is an Aramaic term of contempt) and Matthew says that is a chargeable offense.  Likewise, if we push the issue and call our friend a fool, we may endanger our eternity.  Then we find that lust is more than just physical action, but has something to do with what is in our heart and our mind as well.  Have you ever really considered how great the cost of our sin was on Christ?  Or how big the chasm was between us and God because of our sin?  We can easily bring to mind the things that we actually "did" when thinking about sin...but what about all of those times we only thought hateful things, only "felt" harmful ways towards others?
This text should disturb you at a variety of levels.  It sets a bar, seemingly, that only Christ can live into and fulfill.
Everything on this list is something that needs to be reconciled either with others or within us.  We are going to be talking about reconciliation this weekend, so I invite you to think about those areas and those people in your life were reconciliation has not yet come.  What is your part in bringing that about?
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

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