An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Affairs of the heart: The Sermon on the Mount 5:21-

My notes for this morning's talk. (Slides in previous post)

The Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard apparently loved to tell stories. Here’s one of them:

There once was a little town of Ducks. Each Sunday the ducks waddle out of their homes and waddle down the High Street to their church building. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and sings the opening psalm. Then the duck minister comes forward and reads from the duck Bible: “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings and you can fly like birds!” All the ducks shouted “Amen!” and all waddled home.

Jesus also loved to tell stories. Stories that were hard hitting. People would gladly gather to listen to Jesus to tell his stories – even gather on a mount to listen.

The Sermon on the Mount is packed with wisdom, insight, understanding and it packs no mean punch. It subverts the dominant worldviews. This is an upside down kingdom.

I’m a great believer in putting things in context. In fact there are three things that are crucial to understanding the meaning of any biblical passage: context, context and context.

The biblical, historical-cultural and today’s contexts. We can’t do all that this morning. But let’s quickly look at the first. Where does the SoM fit into Matthew’s Gospel? And where does the passage we are looking at now fit into the Sermon on the Mount?

Matthew is split into 5 main parts with an introduction and an ending.
Intro – the coming of the king
Conclusion – the crucifixion and resurrection – the fulfilment of the kingdom

The 5 main parts have a narrative section and close with a teaching section.

The first main block of teaching is 5-7 the Sermon on the Mount – the kingdom values
The second is ch 10 the sending out of the disciples with the kingdom message
Third ch 13 are the parables of the kingdom
Fourth ch 18  sermon of the community of the kingdom
Fifth 23-25 is the coming of the future kingdom

We’ve had the be-attitudes. It’s important to note that they are not called the do-attitudes! The sermon on the mount is about conduct and character. But Jesus starts straight away by laying the foundation it’s about character first. Out of character comes conduct.

Jesus then looks at our role in society as salt, light and a city. We are the light of the world, but we can only be the light if we are resting in Jesus who is the light.

He then looks at his relationship with the law. He comes not to do away with it but to fulfil it. Our conduct flowing out of our character, shaped by Jesus is us, should out do even the teachers of the law!

We then come to 5:21 onwards. Our section for today. Jesus pick us the theme of the law but gives it an important twist.

He uses the phrase You have heard it was said …. But I tell you …
He uses it six times about:

What Jesus was doing was not reinterpreting the law, he was deepening, not destroying, its demands

Jesus wants us to go deeper. It’s about character not just conduct.

This passage raises many important questions – which we can only gloss over here. (For those concerned about the issues of divorce, I wrote a paper for discussion here.)

Law looks at the surface act: murder and adultery, but Jesus takes it to its root.

The root of murder is anger.
The root of adultery is lust.

It’s all about the heart. What’s in our hearts overflows into our action.
Jesus gets to the heart of the matter and what matters is the heart.
It’s character not just conduct.

Anger obviously doesn’t lead to murder in every situation. But what Jesus says here is that it is liable to the same judgment –it’s the same to God.

Does this mean that anger is always sinful? Not necessarily. Jesus was angry. He didn’t sin.

Anger is a created part of human life. At times it can be the right response to sin.
Paul wrote Eph 4: “In your anger do not sin”. Implying that there was an anger that wasn’t sin.

Anger is part of the created structure.
We can take it in one of two directions: obediently or disobediently to God’s ways.

There is then a created structure to it which is good, but a direction in which we can take it. Anger can be good, but it can also be perverted and used wrongly.

We need to sanctify not suppress anger. One way to sanctify anger is reconciliation.

Jesus then goes on and focuses on reconciliation. Murder is the opposite of reconciliation.

Settle matters – get it sorted. Jesus is very serious about this. He gives two examples: the temple and the court.
For those who ha come to the temple it wasn’t a short waddle! They may have travelled for hours or even days to come. But Jesus says – leave your gift and go back home if you need to sort something out. Then do your worship.

Nothing says kingdom as reconciled relations.
Scot McKnight: “we must be intentional about reconciliation for it to become a pervasive lifestyle”
Lesslie Newbigin: "A gospel of reconciliation can only be communicated by a reconciled community" 

Will we waddle or will we fly?

Jesus then turns to adultery. But again he takes it deeper. He goes to the root of the issue.
The law is not enough – it begins with our hearts.

It’s all about the heart. What’s in our hearts overflows into our action.
Jesus gets to the heart of the matter and what matters is the heart.
It’s character not just conduct.

In the culture of the time it was the women who had to dress modestly, so as to prevent the males falling into lust. Jesus turns it around – he expects the men to control themselves.

Again Jesus shows how serious he is: cut out your eye or chop of your right hand if they cause you to sin. Some took this literally Origen of Alexandria chopped off his privates, Democritus blinded himself. In AD 325 the Council of Nicea had to forbid the practice.

Neither Origen nor Democritus found it solved the problem! The problem is the heart.

From adultery, Jesus moves on logically to the issue of divorce.
Scott McKnight has this important insight:

Divorce confuses the church today because marriage confuses. And marriage confuses the church today because love confuses. 

Gary Thomas wrote a book on marriage called Sacred Marriage. The subtitle of the book is a challenging question: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?

We have swallowed the lie that marriage is primarily for us to be happy. Love is not about romance, self-expression and sexual satisfaction. It is that but it involves so much more than that.

Love is about commitment, self-sacrifice, it’s an act of commitment not feeling it’s about discipleship. When we get married the commitment we make to each other is I will not I do. Do is how you feel in the present but I will includes the future; it’s making a commitment. When we get that right then lust, divorce and adultery will be much less of a problem in the church.

The Sermon on the Mount is about conduct and character. Our conduct comes from our character. Our character comes form hearing and obeying what Jesus has said. It is difficult and hard it is challenging – but we need to stay close to him. He’s the one who helps us fly.

Will we waddle or will we fly home today?

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