Pacifism: The Sermon on the Mount, Part 4 (“But I say unto you …”)

pacifismAfter declaring that he does not intend to abolish the Law and the Prophets, Jesus begins to show the deeper meanings of the commands given by God through the Law and the Prophets.

(Mat 5:21-26)  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

If the Curse corrupted our relationships with each other, how will we overcome that in this dawning Kingdom? Well, it will take a lot more than not committing murder! We need to be reconciled to each other — and this is more important than formal worship of God. Indeed, it is worship of a higher kind, because it brings us closer to Eden, where God walks among us.

To murder requires considering the person you kill as less than human. To reconcile means considering your brother as equal in value to yourself. Indeed, you must humble yourself to seek reconciliation.

(Mat 5:28-32)  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

We teach the first part of this passage in the teenager classes, but Jesus is speaking foremost of adultery, not premarital sex. He says, in effect, if you’re married to a woman, you can’t look at other women in sexual terms. And if you’ll do that, you’ll restore your marriages to the unity God described in Genesis 2. You see, adultery starts with lust, and so you must not lust so that you’ll have strong marriages.

(Mat 5:33-37)  “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Just so, one of the most destructive things in a relationship is a failure to keep your word. Whether we’re talking marriage, church, parenting, or friendship — we will not return to Eden until we learn to keep our promises.

Ask any small group leader how much it hurts the group when people promise to come or promise to bring food and don’t show! Life in the Kingdom is all about keeping promises — to God and to each other. Ultimately, nothing destroys relationships like lies and broken promises.

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6 Responses

  1. I’m sure you’ve heard Ray Vander Laan’s thoughts on how this was a typical rabbinic formula, used by the rabbis “with authority.” They would say, “You have heard… But I say…”

    That’s interesting, if true. Sheds some light on what Jesus was doing.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. The way I always understood “you fool” in v.22, it was used as meaning a person had no [g]God. Which to a Jew, and to some extent to pagans, was the highest form of insult; and as you stated it devalued a person in the eyes of the one saying such things.

    This would neatly explain the actions of someone like the DC Sniper.

    By Christ’s moving outward actions (murder) to inward condition of the heart (the devaluing of another) he has identified the root cause of all the violence we see. If all hearts followed this meaning of the sermon, pacifism would be the norm.

    Steve Valentine

  3. Matt. 5:32 was always presented as physical sexual misconduct either among single folks/fornication, or married/adultery.
    Read that verse and where those words are used, say what we were taught at each place. Doesn’t make sense does it? How could a man putting away his wife for any reason cause her to commit physical sex with someone thus making her an adultress?
    Misconduct in marriage sexual or not makes much more sense. Adultery? Using my old example of your gallon of white paint is just right for the room you are going to paint and your wife come by and add a tablespoon of red paint to it. That act makes her an adultress since she committed adultery by adulterated your paint.
    Same with a marriage or any other contract.
    WE are way too hung up on sex!

  4. Jay,

    Have you read Hay’s Moral Vision of the New Testament? The topic of violence in defense of justice comprises a huge portion of the read, with attention being given to several viewpoints. Hays, of course, comes down on the side of non-violence. Just curious if you’ve worked through that one yet.

    Zach

  5. Thanks, Tim.

    If Jesus is using a typical rabbinic mode of expression, then he was not legislating new law but affirming what was always in the Torah but often misunderstood.

  6. Zach,

    I’ve not read that one. Thanks for the suggestion, though. I’ll be adding it to my Christmas list.

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