Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 5: 13-20. Never Give Up, Never Surrender.

Did you ever see that great, lousy science fiction movie Galaxy Quest?  The Captain in the movie (Tim Allen) had an expression which he supposedly always used:  “Never give up and Never surrender.”  That is pretty much what Jesus is telling us in this passage.  And it is one passage.

Here is the thing:  On the one hand, I have heard sermons and lessons on how to be salty Christians, on shining our light, on cities on the hill.  Then, on the other hand, I have heard plenty about Jesus fulfilling the law not abolishing it, especially from those with a prophetic interest or leaning.  But rarely (if ever) have I heard these two things put together.  I feel that is because most people don’t see the connection.

There are scholars (more than a few) who have even proposed that these are no more than pithy saying (perhaps from the mythical Q document) that Matthew was fond of sprinkling here and there in his narrative.  Frankly, I feel Matthew was smarter than that.  Certainly he saw the connection – the logical progression between these passages since he added no separator such as “and they went away from there into the lands around Galilee…”  Follow:

Jesus begins by telling his primarily Jewish audience that they are the salt of the earth and must not lose their saltiness.  And what distinguished Jews from all other peoples in that day and age?  They were law keepers.  They kept the commandments.  (No.  Monotheism had already made inroads by that time).

Now, some have noted this much about salt:  that it preserves and adds flavor to life.  And generally I have found that most understand salt as something more than the popular misconception.  The salty people are not just good ol’ country folks.  But then most I’ve read turn on behavior as a way of living for God, yet salt must be more than mere moral preservatives for this nation in this age. 

You have heard about rubbing salt in a wound.  It is painful.  And when people feel that pain, many will lash out.  So what.  We just need to continue striving in every way to keep the commandments, and better than the Pharisees, Jesus said.

And light.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not understand it?  More like men hid their deeds in darkness because they were afraid of the light.  You shine the light of God into that darkness and don’t be surprised at the adverse reaction you get.  Too bad.  We need to just keep shining our light.  We need to continue to keep the commandments.

You shall have no other gods before God.  Is that so?  It seems to me an awful lot of people these days are looking to the government rather than God.  Are you offended by my saying that?  So what.  Too bad.  Why should Christians slink around in the dark alleys in this culture.  We are told that it is impolite to speak about religion in public.  I feel it is death NOT to speak about it.

So they took prayer out of the schools.  So they removed the ten commandments from our courts.  So they banned the nativity from the public park at Christmas time. So even Christmas is frowned on.  It is “Happy Holidays” these days, you know.  And how many good Christians are approving of these things?

No, I’m sorry.  I will not put my light under a basket.  The city in which I live is on the hill and will not be hid.  I am not willing to come down to the valley of death and hide my faith in the shadows – out of the schools, out of the courts, off the public square.

Jesus said he came to fulfill the law.  I praise him, because the law for us is our condemnation. We do not keep the law perfectly, which is sin.  Jesus fulfills this law so we are not condemned – having taken the penalty for us in his body on the cross.  But understand, he also said that he did NOT come to abolish the law.  Not one bit of it will pass away before the end. 

So we must practice the law, keep the law, Love god and Love neighbor, and if some people get angry and claim that our faith hurts them, too bad.  I am not going to become bland and saltless like so many in America these days who claim Christ but keep him to themselves.  And if they don’t want me to shine the light of God on what they are doing, so what?  I am not going to hide my light under a basket for political correctness or politeness or any other reason.  And I will declare Christ in the public forum.  Mine is the city on the hill.  Christ belongs at City Hall.  If they want to sue me to shut me up, or fine me or throw me in jail for doing God’s will and speaking openly about it, too bad.  I might even suggest they go ahead and throw me to the lions while they are at it.  I will do what Christ commands.  I will seek what is right, good and true.  I will walk in the way of the Lord all my days, and I will Never give up and Never surrender.

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