Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 5: 21-37: The Best Defense is a Good…

Jesus offended everybody.  That makes sense.  They did not crucify him because they liked him or because he preached such warm and fuzzy sermons.  The problem for us, of course, is how do we take his words and preach them honestly and not get ourselves crucified in the process?

I am sure the Pharisees, lawyers and the like saw Jesus at times as some liberal whacko, hanging out the way he did with sinners and tax collectors.  Here, I think the charge would more likely be that he is some racist, sexist, homophobic bigot (too conservative for words).  But you see, those sorts of charges tell more about us than about Jesus or about God.  Follow:

In our day, just like back then, we have justified and rationalized everything you can think of.  We are fond of being up-to-date, in style, in vogue, modern or post-modern and sensible, reasonable people.  Homosexuality is a perfectly reasonable and acceptable lifestyle.  It is wise to live together before marriage, and indeed to sleep around a bit first.  The psychologists tell us, “Be honest about your feelings.  How does that make you feel?”  They are looking for the word, “angry,” as if that is a good thing.  And then everyone gets divorced these days.  It is no big deal.  We are so good at making our views of life sound justified and reasonable, and anyone who dares to challenge our views must be an ignorant boob.

His name was Jesus.

Fortunately, this passage is not about murder, adultery, divorce or swearing.  It is about our insides – at the very root of where we rationalize our view of life, and thus unfortunately perhaps more offensive that it might otherwise have been.  Jesus, in short, is saying here, don’t be ruled by your emotions, either anger or lust, but get control of yourself, be reconciled to one another no matter what happened and keep your word, or don’t give it at all.

I have written many times and offered many proofs that God’s intention for us all is to change us from the inside-out.  It does no good to rail against the outward sins if the inside is still full of rot.  This is not to say the outward side does not matter, but our outer selves will always show what is ultimately inside of us.  Fix the inside first, and the outside will follow.  That is God’s way.

So Jesus says it is not the murder, but the anger.  It is not the adultery, but the lust.  It is not the divorce but the breaking of the vow (the bond).  You said “yes” (or “I do”) so keep your word.  Be a word keeper.

Jesus is NOT suggesting we inhabit a world full of one-eyed, one handed people.  He IS saying that this is how serious it is.  Be reconciled to your kinsman first.  Settle your disputes first.  And keep your word.  GET SERIOUS.  Most of all, recognize that emotions were made for the right time and place to dwell in us, not to control us.  And as far as our rationalizations go, whether its political correctness, social convention, progressive, liberal, moderate, conservative or libertarian, I don’t care about any of that.  As for me and mine, we will serve the Lord.  That is a vow.  Yes?


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