Monday, May 25, 2015

Sermon on the Mount, part 7

Perfection of the law

Jesus finished this section by teaching:
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:48)
This part matches up to the disclaimer, where Jesus insisted he did not come to abolish the law, even in the smallest matter.
What flaw is Jesus asking us to be perfected from? By this point it should be clear: we must uphold the right and good and reject the wrong and evil absolutely and unconditionally, not carving out exceptions based on the justification of ‘righting’ the wrongs of others or doing it for the greater good or for some worthy purpose. The means do not justify the ends.
Perfection also has the sense of completion or maturity. Jesus perfected the law by removing the evil it permitted us in response to the evils of others.

Luke expresses the parallel teaching as: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36) The perfection enjoined is perfection and completeness of mercy, because ‘mercy triumphs over judgement’ (James 2:13).

The true concept of honour

In abolishing legalised violence and wrongdoing, Jesus teaches an economy and society of honour in its place, with the greatest social sanction being shame and disassociation (Mat 18:15-17). However, the concept of honour is not the same as the worldly concept of external appearance, recognition and social validation. Seeking the honour of external appearance and recognition makes us competitive and conforms us to the standards of this world, even when those standards permit evil. It makes us fearful of non-conformity. It makes us timid in the face of oppression and violence accepted by others.
Jesus teaches a spiritual and heavenly honour instead:
‘Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Mat 6:1-4)
With this concept and model of true honour, we will be bold in rejecting the violence and oppression that the world around us takes for granted or insists is necessary to keep order. With this concept of honour, we can build a non-political and non-coercive force of social preservation and enlightenment.

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