This week I have set myself a challenge.
Each day I am going to do my best to create a more approachable way of understanding Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 5 of the Sermon on the Mount:
Anger. Adultery. Divorce. Promises. Revenge. Love for enemies.
But before we plunge into the deep end, there is a very important section to introduce us to what is about to be said…
The Fulfilment of the Law
‘“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”’ – Matthew 5:17
Jesus starts with a precaution. It is easy to read this chapter and presume that Jesus is replacing the Old Testament laws. This is not the case and he makes this very clear from the start. He is not getting rid of the old Law or Prophets, but the complete opposite: he is there to fulfil them.
Also, I think that he is not talking directly about individual laws, but the Scriptures as a whole. He doesn’t want to do away with them, but to deliver what they have already stated.
When Jesus gave us this set of commandments he was clarifying those already in place. He sets a more exact standard which is higher for us to achieve. He wants us to aim high and to be the best we can in God’s presence.
However, God does not want his children to just follow rules. He wants us to understand the meaning behind why we should and should not carry out immoral deeds. He wants us to place our faith first before we act. He wants us to know why we are wrong when we step out of line. Ultimately, He wants to help us.
God is forgiving. We mustn’t forget that when we read these laws and immediately give up hope, fearing we have already made too many mistakes. God has the ability to rub away sins leaving clean slates.
One of the hardest things about these laws is the attitude of ‘should we or shouldn’t we’ keep them. In the bible Jesus says, ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’(Matthew 5:20) It feels wrong then to argue with them when it clearly says this, but there are many debates as to whether they are still in action in the changing world. I think to get caught up in this just delays us learning all we can from the teachings. Yes, they are hard to put into practise in the modern world. No, this doesn’t mean we should brush them aside as irrelevant, but keep on striving to keep them in place.
The best way to approach them is by trusting that Christians do keep these laws by having faith in Christ. We keep the laws in our hearts and put them into practice through our faith. If we constantly strive to keep them and pray for help, He will be there with us all the way.
Tomorrow I shall begin with the first law… anger. Watch this space!