Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, what does it hold for us?

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is the subject of debate for Christians and non-Christians. It contains language that is severe if taken literally. For example see Matt 5: 28-30, 39-41, 6:19, 26.

Are we to dismember ourselves to avoid sin, not defend against evil, not save money, and not to plant crops? Several good exegesis are available on the web:
  • The Sermon on the Mount is for the most part Law as it sets a standard for all Christians. Since it is a standard that we cannot reach by our own efforts it condemns us while at the same time it reminds us of the kind of life a Christian should strive to lead. It is the mirror in which we see ourselves as we really are and yet it is a guide for us as we seek to live a life worthy of the calling to which we are called, that is, the life of a Christian.
Note added Jan. 4 - An explanation of how the LCMS views Law as opposed to Gospel:
  • The LCMS, along with certain other Lutheran Church Bodies, also teaches the doctrine of the distinction between God's "Law" and God's "Gospel." The Missouri Synod believes that the Holy Scriptures contain only two teachings – the Law and the Gospel. The Law is all those parts of the Bible that provide commands and instructions, which the LCMS believes are impossible to completely obey. Therefore, the Law is a statement of God's wrath, judgement, and damnation. The Gospel, on the other hand, is the portions of Scripture that promise free salvation from God, even to sinners. The law condemns, the Gospel saves. Both the Law and the Gospel are gifts from God; both are necessary. The function of the law is to show a person their sinful nature and drive them to the Gospel, where the forgiveness of sin is promised for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • it appears that the best approach is to take the sermon at face value (with some obvious exceptions such as Matthew 5:29-30) and to do our best to live the life Jesus outlined for us. When we fail while trying our best, we need not despair; God is a God of grace and forgiveness for all who confess and repent of their sins.

  • The Sermon tells us what our attitudes must become and admonishes us to be lights to the world. We must not lust or allow our anger to be uncontrolled or frivolous. We must turn the other cheek, agree with our adversary quickly, go the extra mile and love our enemy. It tells us how to pray, fast, do charitable deeds, lay up treasure in heaven, be single minded, exercise our faith in trusting God, seek Him before all other things in life, and much more. The point is clear. These are all things the converted must actively do to witness for God, glorify Him, and be in His Kingdom. They are not intended to be the limit but a summary of the attitudes, thoughts, and works of one striving for the Kingdom of God.
To me as I read the Sermon on the Mount much it forms the attitude of a Christian. Some of it is literal but some are ideals. Perhaps it is because of Jesus' teaching style which is in the form of parables. See Luke 8:9-10.

  • 9 His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.

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