Wednesday, February 19, 2014

loving enemies Matthew 5:38-48

"Love your enemies," Jesus said it, and He meant it.
He offers sinners nothing less than His love on the cross. And He invites His followers to walk in similar steps dealing with real people and real conflicts.
What on earth is Jesus speaking about. He was speaking about how God's word—His law and His Gospel—point His followers to live in this world. Jesus is naming the truth about people and about God. Following Jesus is no pie in the sky religion. He gives an invitation to trust God everyday in down to earth face to face challenges. Be honest: loving enemies isn't easy. Dealing with people who greet you with swear words and curses isn't easy. And Jesus words aren't just meant for us with people who are close-by. He's offering this direction to us in every dimension of our lives. This isn't easy; Jesus knows that and He says love your enemies and pray for them. He says that about people close by and about enemies and warring nations.

Maybe you want to say back to Jesus, "Really Jesus, even they deserve Christ like love?" Jesus invites His friends to new life beginning and ending in His cross. He invites those who greet you with anger and wrath to that very same new life. Jesus isn't calling His friends just to show kindness to the kind and pleasant, that's easy. He calls his disciples to love those they are in conflict with today and those they will be in conflict with in the future.

Jesus invitation to new life starts and ends with His cross. He comes to offer new life, period including in person to person relationships. When He says love your enemies He's not talking about warm fuzzy love. He's talking about love that can stand in storms and face evil for what it is. Jesus is calling us even to see those who do us harm as people with basic dignity. Here's really honest territory for believers. Jesus sees the dignity of all people. And He invites his friends to do the same.
Listen close to the Savior's words, your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. Matthew 5:44 NCV
Jesus invites his friends to live honest about everything--joy and pain, relationships and conflict. Following Jesus means freedom to be honest about who God is and who people are and what people do right and wrong. When Jesus calls you to love your enemies not just the loveable. He is calling us to love our neighbors when we look at them not as good and trustworthy but when even we see them as dishonorable. Even then Jesus says love them and pray for them.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jesus knows Matthew 5:21-37

Jesus knows how we tick--especially inside. Jesus' preaching on a Galilean mountaintop in Matthew 5:21-37 reveals just how much he gets us. Listen close to His words. He's talking about "private" thoughts and naming them as sin Matthew 5:21-23, Matthew 5:27-28. He's talking about forgiveness. He's calling his people to step away from the altar to make peace with a neighbor before making an offering Matthew 5:24-26. He speaks about sin and breaking away from it Matthew 5:29-31. He speaks of divorce and vows Matthew 5:31-37.

Jesus boldly points to real sins, murder and adultery, that occur in thoughts as much as actions. He speaks to the harm caused by broken relationship. In short Jesus is showing clear that he knows us. He says there's no difference between the sins present "only" in the space between hearts and heads as in bodily actions.

Jesus leaves no doubt. Anyone who has lusted is guilty of adultery Matthew 5:27-28. Anyone who has raged against another, even without expressing such inner thoughts, is guilty of sin Matthew 5:21-23. There's no medieval quibbling about venial and mortal sin for Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Sin is sin. It breaks relationships and He calls us to repair broken relationships on our way to the altar. Our enraged or lustful thoughts break relationships. It's our thoughts that stop us from seeing our neighbors as equal creatures in God's eyes.

And here Jesus calls us out. He sees the very ones he'd die to save. And he calls out our sin. There's no space for hypocrisy here. All have sinned either through their bodies or in their minds. There's no fake holiness. Just conviction and direction to make right the relationships we've broken.
Peace, and thanks for reading. John

Monday, February 3, 2014

Salty and Bright Matthew 5:13-20

God shapes and reshapes identities: so when Jesus calls you salt and light he's announcing who you are in him Matthew 5:13-14. Maybe you say no to Jesus, "But I am not very salty or very bright." Remember who's calling you salt and light: the one who made the whole of everything says you are salt and light for the world.

It's possible to mistake Jesus' words for a coach's pep talk. Think of an encouraging half time speech from a great coach. You might know of a coach who calls out the best from within his players natural talents. Jesus is doing something different; He names a new identity and ability that comes from God himself. Salt and light aren't in anybody by nature. Salt and light aren't a byproduct of human efforts at being good. The new identity as salt and light changes believers for the sake of the world.

Luther wrote of preachers as salt and light standing bright for the whole world to see,

It is a hard job to be an apostle or a preacher and carry out this kind of office, yes, an impossible one, judging according to flesh and blood. But they must be people who do it gladly for the sake of God and the Lord Christ. He does not want to compel anyone or drive him with commandments. For the state of being a Christian is one that requires only willing hearts. Anyone who does not heartily want it had better leave it alone. But this is our consolation: When we are in trouble and the world and the devil are glaring at us and acting as cruelly as possible, then He says to us: “You are the salt of the earth.” When the Word shines into a man’s heart so that he can depend on it and lay uncontested claim to the title “God’s salt,” then let anyone who refuses to laugh be as angry and cruel as he pleases. With His single word I can be more defiant and boastful than they with all their power, swords, and guns. Luther's works, vol. 21p 54: The Sermon on the Mount. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount had a bigger audience than the fisherman who would tell the Good News of his death and rising to the world, no, Matthew 5-7 is full of vision and possibility for all who believe.

Some see this sermon as a new law--a new standard for living--new rules to made and enforced most especially for others. Read Jesus' words close. Jesus is speaking of God making his followers salt and light even if they aren't salty or bright on their own.

This sermon reveals Jesus' vision. It's his plan to work through Word and Spirit. Jesus spoke of a present reality in which God is alive and at work. Jesus spoke of his people acting in this world on their redeemer's behalf. Jesus spoke of a world in which the spiritually hungry, the peacemakers and the mourners would see God move to meet the deepest hungers of their souls. In short, Jesus shared his vision. He tells what he's doing for his followers moving and reordering this world from the bottom up .

Right after Jesus shared this vision Matthew tells how He called to all who could hear him, close friends and onlookers in the great crowd, that they had new identities: You are salt Matthew 5:13 and you are light Matthew 5:.14. Jesus assigned these new identity to all who heard him that day: you are salt and light. Let that sink in for a minute. You are salt and light for the sake of the world.
Peace, and thanks for reading. John.