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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 14 of 40: A New Kind of Righteousness, Part 1

Matthew 5:21-26
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus stated that, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

In the next 28 verses of Matthew 5, Jesus goes on to describe the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.  In doing so, Jesus spoke as His own authority, correcting the law, because He was who He was.  Jesus gave us a new standard, which was not the law, but the condition of one's heart.  If a person is able to live in such a way that their hearts were pure, then the law is unnecessary.

In this new standard, it is not enough to say that you have not murdered someone or committed some violence or committed adultery.  If we have dwelled upon these things in our hearts, then we have done them.  Our thoughts are as important as our deeds.  The Jewish law was concerned more with one's outer life.  Jesus is concerned with both our inner and our outer lives.  This is the new righteousness after which we must hunger and thirst.

As his first example of this new standard, Jesus addresses the problem of anger.  Everyone gets angry.  Someone says or does something that we feel is wrong or is an injustice to us or someone else and our tempers flare.  But, looking back over the 64 years of my life, I can honestly say that nothing good ever came of my anger.  It is only after I cool down that I am able deal with and understand, or attempt to understand the situation.  It is only then that I can handle things in a positive, constructive way.  This realization has come to me after long years of struggle and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  But I still have times when my temper flares.

In this passage, Jesus is warning us against an anger that can take over our lives.  An anger that can cause us to hold grudges and not to speak to a friend or relative for years, or an anger that we turn inward causing us to hate ourselves.  This kind of anger not only causes our relationships with others to suffer but it also causes our relationship with God to suffer.  It interferes with our ability to worship, to pray, or to offer our service with a sincere heart.

So, we must be peacemakers in order to preserve our relationship with God.  We must humble ourselves and reach out to those that anger us in order to serve God and the church; in order to sacrifice our time, our talent, our gifts and our witness fully to God.

In Romans 12:18 Paul says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."  We cannot control what others do, but we can control what we do.  Jesus is asking that we live in peace and that we reach out and reconcile with others.  But he also told us that people we do not even know will persecute us for no reason other than following Christ.  In this case, we are to make peace with these people in our hearts.

Anger, for the most part, is not good for our spiritual lives.  But, anger can teach us our limits.  It can show us that we are human and that we are not perfect, that we are in need of a savior.

Tomorrow we study adultery.

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