In today’s reading, I began a look at the Sermon on the Mount. Here I am finding the greatest insight for today is in a more sweeping rather than close look.
Jesus begins by identifying the blessings of God on people who, to the world, do not look so blessed. The world would consider the people in the Beatitudes to be weak and cursed by prosperity standards. Yet, in the eternal scheme of things, they are rewarded and happy before God. Our lives are far more than what the world sees.
Then, Jesus tells us to be what we are. We are salt and should be salty. We are light, and should shine. In neither of these do we see a lot of prescription about how to do it, at least not yet. Though full sermons have been preached on each of those things alone, it seems from a quick fly-over that Jesus is telling us to impact the world by being different than the world.
How be different? The next thing Jesus says is that we are to be very different than the Pharisees and teachers of the law. We do not let go of any of God’s word. We do not teach people to ignore God’s word. We, instead, obey the word better than the professional teachers of the law.
How? How obey better? Jesus says that the teachers are really specific in speaking out against murder. We are not to even entertain hatred. We are never to devalue human beings. We look different than the teachers of old by not looking for loopholes to get out of the intent of God’s law.
How else? The teacher oppose adultery. We are to stand firm for sexual purity. We are to take steps not to allow ourselves to entertain lust.
How else? The teachers are often focused on the rules and regulations around divorce, making sure the certificates are in order. Jesus tells us that no divorce happens without great sin occurring somewhere. We are to treasure and value marriage, not look for the way out.
In all this, we see that God’s standard is perfection. We see that there are no little escape clauses that give us the opportunity to live for the flesh instead of following the intended way of the Lord.
Of course, when we live differently, not slinking around corners to ignore the word of God, we will be salty to the world, changing the taste of all that comes into contact with us. We will shine out as bright as a city on a hill in comparison to the dark backdrop of a world that embraces bitterness, that loves lust, and that destroys marriage. Just obeying the intent of the word of God will impact the world around us.
But, we also know that we have never obeyed this law that well. This is why we realize that we need a Savior. Citizens of God’s kingdom are blessed. But none of us have ever lived up to the identifying marks of citizens of that kingdom. We need to be rescued and forgiven, and Jesus is showing us how great is that need. But, once we are forgiven, Jesus is also showing us that our lives and our values have to shine out differently than the values of a world that has forgotten eternity.
Realize how much humility this requires. While we obey the word of God, we have no room to be jerks toward the world. The world is full of sinners. We are sinners too. We do not ever act as though sin is OK. Yet, we also do not look at anyone as if we are better. All we are is rescued.
Lord, I would ask you that you will help me to think in your way and to obey your word. Let me be salt and light to the world around me. I know that I do not have the kind of personal righteousness that will win me entrance into your kingdom. My only hope is the righteousness of Christ and his finished work. Please, Lord, sanctify me in your word so that my life might reflect the righteousness of Christ that you have imputed to me.