Friday 27 September 2013

Bible Book:

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (v. 48)

Matthew 5:38-48 Friday 27 September 2013


What a way to start the day. I've burnt the toast, shouted atthe dogs and lost my car keys... and Jesus is asking me to beperfect. What's more, this passage appears not to illustrateChrist's humility so much as draw us instead into the niceties ofthe Jewish legal system.

We find ourselves at the tail-end of a discourse in which Jesus hasbeen examining some of the most hotly-debated tenets of Jewish lawand reinterpreting them for a new age. Discussing anger, adultery,divorce and oaths, Jesus doesn't do the revolutionary thing ofthrowing out the old teachings and setting up a whole new socialand legal framework. Instead he envisages a way of life that isarguably even more challenging. He demands that we act in ways thatimprove upon the requirements of the law.

Jesus has warned that "unless your righteousness exceeds that ofthe scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom ofheaven" (Matthew 5:20). His reflections on the law nowconclude with the injunction to be perfect "as your heavenly Fatheris perfect" (verse 48). Speaking as much to the Christian communityas to individuals, the Gospel writer shapes Jesus' words to suggestthat we should not be lulled into believing that we've made thegrade simply because we have kept the rules. The Christian lifeneeds to aspire to the perfect love of God, never towardsself-belief or self-love. It's the kind of life that, in Jesus'case, led to being hauled up onto a Roman cross.

Looking back from the vantage point of Golgotha, where Jesus died,these verses are not simply the arguments of a Jewish rabbi's sharplegal mind but rather the groundwork for a way of life that caresnothing for self and all for God. 

To Ponder

  • What part do rules, spoken and unspoken, play in your life as adisciple?
  • As Christian communities, are there rules that we maintain thatGod might not find very important?
  • What might a life look like that 'cares nothing for self andall for God'? Who do you know that fits that description?
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