“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:21-37
Can you imagine being so convicted about an insult or wrong done to someone else that you could not come and receive communion until you went and made that relationship right again? This is the kind of conscience Jesus is talking about when He says:
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus continues: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
Can you imagine yourself saying “no” to all the sexual temptation this culture has to offer? The way to defeat that kind of temptation is not to resist it. It is to flee it. In several places the Bible tells us the best way to overcome temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).
Jesus continues, “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
Jesus is talking about our personal integrity, our truthfulness and our honesty in all our dealings with others. Can we make the commitment to that kind of integrity? And when we fail, will we repent and vow to live differently in the future and to make right our dealings with those we have wronged? The witness of that kind of character used to speak volumes to people in our culture. Can we work to make our society that kind of place again?
The way this confrontation with society works itself out is a challenge to us all:
First, we must live in God’s Word, the Bible, until it saturates our minds and our lives, and unfold that Word to help all the casualties around us (which is most of us, at one time or another) as we seek to survive another week in faith, to live as God intends, and to feel God’s hope and peace and joy in our lives.
Secondly, we must be a fellowship to each other that sustains us in the midst of the spiritual attacks we experience from a secular society with no room for God. We must minister to each other in prayer and fellowship that sustains and transforms. If enough people—wives and husbands, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, employees and employers, teachers and students—would begin to shape their lives around the awe-inspiring reality of the grace and glory of the biblical God, there would sprout up a garden of healing, and the chain of misery that afflicts our society could be broken for generations to come.
And so I believe one of the great missions of the church is to reweave the fabric that has been unraveled—the fabric of God-centered lives and families—to rebuild the foundation of God’s all-pervasive presence and influence in our lives and in the lives of our children and their children and their children after them, and all those in our world who need the Savior.
Heavenly Father, bring revival not just in our churches but in our hearts, that we would value Your Word and Your Way over our own, and that You would be the center of our lives. We ask this in Your name, Amen.
This month’s reflections have been written by The Very Rev. Robert S. Munday, Ph.D., D.D. Rev. Munday is Rector of All Saints Anglican Church, Montrose, Colorado, and is a member of the Board of Anglicans for Life.