Day 6: Matthew 5:21-48
Jesus here continues his challenging teaching, reminding his followers—and us—that it is not enough to fulfill the letter of the law. Rather, what is in our heart matters as much as what we do. I am certainly well acquainted with anger, and Jesus’ teaching that my anger makes me “liable to judgment” is hard to hear. Of course, there is great wisdom here. Anger consumes the heart, and when rage is kindled within me, I am not able to be my best self, to love others, or even to love God fully. This is why reconciliation is so very important. Then we come to the tough bits about retaliation and loving our enemies. How different would our world be if we sincerely and devoutly prayed for our enemies, if we loved them, rather than wishing our enemies harm or dispatching armies to kill them? I’m not sure how this plays out in foreign policy, but I do know that every time I have prayed for the well-being of someone who has harmed me, my heart has been transformed. It is not easy to hear, but the call of the gospel is not “they should be punished as they deserve” but rather that we should love our enemies. We are called to be perfect, something that we will never achieve, though the quest will bring us ever closer to Jesus.
The Rev. Scott GunnExecutive Director of Forward MovementCincinnati, Ohio
Taking one example, Jesus says to “Give to everyone who begs from you.” This command must have presented some of the same challenges to Jesus’ listeners as it does to us today. Why do you think Jesus asks this of his followers? For several days, try praying for an enemy, perhaps a coworker or a relative or a terrorist. Does this change you? Do you think it changes your enemy?
What you ask of us is impossible, Lord Jesus, and so we beg you to help us repent and try again whenever we fail to follow you. Amen.
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.
Rev. Mary’s reflection on the reading
Daily, my two daughters, Donovan (my daughter’s fiance), Dave and I, at dinner have been answering a discussion question. Sometimes the questions are intentionally silly, othertimes profound. Yesterday’s question was, “What do you like best about your God?” I think my answer comes from scripture like Matthew 5:21-48 – his version of the 10 Commandments. What I love best about God? I love that God is more merciful than just. I experience the 10 Commandments as gifts on how to live together without strife. I fear that if God weighed all my pettiness, meanness, and anger (just to mention some of my sins) against all the good I do, I would come out so lacking that the just thing to do would be to condemn me. But that is not my understanding of God. My understanding is that Jesus came, took away our sins so that we present as righteous, whole, and forgiven. Jesus mercifully takes away our sins so we are able to stand at our judgment without shame and with grace. We are worthy not because we justly deserve to be worthy. We are worthy because through God’s mercy we are made worthy. Therefore, imitate Jesus in this way – be merciful to all and leave the judgment to God.