Righteousness: loving

sermon-on-the-mount43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Continue reading

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Righteousness: extra mile

sermon-on-the-mount40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Again Jesus returns to the legal setting of the courtroom. This time to describe more than what the law commands, but what God proposes as true righteousness. Continue reading

Righteousness: against the grain

sermon-on-the-mountJesus’ continues to teach with authority (but I say to you…) to his disciples even as the crowd listens in (cf. 5:1-2). The fifth example used by Jesus (vv.38-41) is one that perhaps most goes “against the grain” of our human reaction. Here Jesus challenges the idea of retribution, revenge, a tit-for-tat model of justice – and the means by which people seek redress in judicial arenas.  For some communities, these verses form the key verses for their belief in non-violent resistance. Continue reading

Righteousness: context

sermon-on-the-mount38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Continue reading

But I say to you: greater righteousness

sermon-on-the-mountTowards A Greater Righteousness. In v.20 Jesus calls for a greater righteousness. Eugene Boring sees vv.21-47 as offering concrete instances from which the disciples can discern a way forward to that greater righteousness. This is a particularly long section of the Sunday reading, and so, it will be broken up into six posts, all of which will appear today.

In Jesus’ teaching a three-fold structure appears (what follows is quoted from Boring, 189):

Reaffirmation. Matthew reassures those who fear that Christians advocate the abolition of the Torah that this is a misunderstanding. Jesus’ commands do not transgress the Law, but radicalize it—they go to the radix, the root of the command. The one who puts into practice what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5 will not violate any command of the Torah, which is not abolished but reaffirmed. Continue reading

Redemptive Anger

sermon-on-the-mountCommandments, rules, and laws – our readings offer a lot to think about. When I was 5 years old, I followed (mostly) the rule: “Don’t cross the street by yourself”, even as I wanted to explore the world across the road. When I was 25 years old, I understood that those rules were for my welfare, health, and protection.  There were also rules to shape me to be a good person: “You have to share your things with your friends.” Hopefully, when we are older we don’t think about those things, they are ingrained, and they are part of the good person we have become. Continue reading

Fulfilling the Law: a greater righteousness

beatitudes1A Framework of Understanding. Matthew 5:21-47 is clearly designed to be read as a whole, consisting of six units of teaching each introduced by ‘You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …’, and rounded off with a summary of Jesus’ ethical demand in v. 48. It is neither a complete ethic, nor a theological statement of general ethical principles, but a series of varied examples of how Jesus’ principles, enunciated in vv. 17–20, work out in practice. And this practical outworking is set in explicit contrast with the ethical rules previously accepted: it is in each case more demanding, more far-reaching in its application, more at variance with the ethics of man without God; it concerns a man’s motives and attitudes more than his literal conformity to the rules. In this sense, it is quite radical. Continue reading