Sermon on the Mount Part Two

“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:25–48 ESV)

A great part of Christian apologetics should be practical in living an ethical life before others.  This teaching gives us great places to start.  Jesus tells us that the ethical life does not begin with the outside but with the inside.  It is not enough to just stop short of adultery or murder.  We must take care of things long before then.

The teaching on divorce may seem oppressive to some today where divorce is extremely easy.  This teaching was given in a culture where is was fairly easy for the man to initiate divorce.  There were suggestions by some rabbis that burning soup could be a good reason for divorce.  In a society where there was no support for divorced women, this could be devastating.  Divorced women could be forced into begging or prostitution.  By limiting divorce, Jesus was doing something significant to help women.

What do we do about the teaching to cut off what causes sin?  Should we start amputating body parts?  Ironically, Origen, who was known for his allegorical interpretations, took this literally and castrated himself.  Jesus is dealing with the real reasons that cause us to sin.  It is not about body parts but relationships and situations.

Jesus’ teaching on love for enemies is essential for those interested in apologetics.  For those of us who interact with skeptics and people of other faiths, conversations can get heated.  It is easy to take things personally and to be tempted to say things to make the opponent foolish rather than to win them for Christ.  This option is not given to us.  Our love for the skeptic must be front and centre in all our apologetic interactions.

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