Last week’s passage ended with these words: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
This weeks passage begins with the words “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times…but I say to you…
Jesus seems to be pretty serious about his statement that his followers righteousness has to be better than the scribes and Pharisees. That’s a tall order because that group of people followed the law down to the last stroke, and they were pretty good at it, so how can I do better?
In this week’s passage we have three examples; anger, lust and promises.
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; 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.
I can remember a time not so long ago when I was pretty angry. There were various factors in my church family that made me never want to actually hang around Christians. While I continued to attend church on a regular basis I was not worshipping God. I would sit outside the sanctuary, not because it was the cool place to sit, but because often I could not bring myself to go into the sanctuary with all “those” people. My anger prevented me from entering into worship and through worship, experiencing the transforming power of God in my life.
Thankfully that feeling did not last forever because eventually I just had to forgive and be forgiven.
So when Jesus talks about the seriousness of anger and how it is worse than murder, he is not setting up another form of legalistic law but instead he is just pointing out the plain truth that anger prevents true worship. Forgiveness is not about letting the guilty party away with their crime, but it is about freeing ourselves up to stand before God in worship and allow his work to take place in our hearts.
The same can be said about lust and broken promises, they both get in the way of our relationship with God as they impact our relationships with each other.
Jesus came to complete the law and he redefines it, bringing it back to what it was really meant to be about in the first place. I heard it best this week in a quote that I cannot attribute which goes like this:
“If you want to be close to God, take care of his people” That’s the heart of the matter.
Those are just some starting thoughts, for this week’s passage…what do you think?