Sermon Summary (2/12/17), “But I Say to you” Matthew 5:20-26
We’re in a sermon series, “Say and Do,” looking at what Jesus said and did to better know what we are to say and do. Last week, “You are the light of the world,” and we said, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Today, we move further into the Sermon on the Mount, the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus takes the teachings of Moses, reaffirms them, radicalizes them, and then gives concrete examples of living the new meaning. He does an amazing thing. He says, “But I say to you.” Jesus is relocating the authority of the law within himself. Later the crowds will be amazed because, they say, he speaks as one with authority!
It is easy not to kill. But Jesus recognizes it is the heart that is the problem. “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother or sister, who ever says Raca (Aramaic term for contempt)… “ Anger and contempt, just like murder, have no place in human relationships.
Then he does an amazing thing. He places human relationships above our relationship with God. “If you are there before the altar and remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there… and first go be reconciled…’ It is the absolute will of God that we live in harmony with one another!
The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets, sometimes called table 1 and table 2. The former dealt with our relationship with God, the latter, table 2, with our relationships with one another. Jesus spends far more time with table 2 than the former. It is the absolute will of God that we live together in harmony. And all of them, all of them, fit within the law to “Love one’s neighbor as one’s self.”
John Wesley’s rules fit this bill. He said, “First do not harm.” First, because it is very difficult to undo harm. Forgiveness, yes; consequences, very difficult. How do we avoid anger, contempt, belittling, demeaning? How do we avoid hurting one another? First, do no harm.
“Then, do good.” Just as Jesus calls us to positive action (go, be reconciled with your neighbor), Wesley tells us, “Do good.” How is it that we can be a positive force in our neighbor’s life? J. Ellsworth Kalas wrote a book, The Ten Commandments from the Backside,” in which he restates the commandments in positive terms. Instead of just “Do not murder,” he says “Embrace life.” How is it that we give life to another? We need to be thoughtful, we need to be intentional to not just not harm but to do good. Kalas says instead of not just coveting, be grateful for all that your neighbor has. Grateful people do all the good they can. So may we live in harmony! Amen.