Monday, December 31, 2018

Devotional: God’s Standards For Daily Life #1, Matthew 5:21-32

Outline of Matthew 5.21-32

In the rest of Matthew 5 Jesus continued to reveal what living out the Torah according to what God really intended means. It is not enough just to agree with Jesus. We must imitate the way Jesus approached daily life in our closest relationships. Jesus gives six examples in the chapter of his very stringent application of the Torah. God eternally judges based on the motivation of the heart, not just the action. We may seem okay on the outside but the law judges unjust anger, lust or coveting, betrayal (divorce), integrity (oaths), what we really love (retribution or resistance) and what we really value (love for enemies). Jesus calls us to carefully consider, not just what we do, but our motivations for being and doing, and humbly commit to imitation of Christ in the power of the Spirit. In the first three examples we see that God wants peaceful relationships that deal with anger appropriately; service rather than exploitation of one another; and marriages that reflect the committed love within the Trinity. 

In Jesus’ first example we see that God calls us to attitudes and actions that create peace, not conflict. (5:21-26). Here Jesus corrects the Pharisee’s misunderstanding that God only judged the action, murder, and not the attitude, anger. It is not enough before God just to refrain from homicide because the anger itself is murderous in principle. Anger is dangerous because it leads to actions that will be judged by society and, ultimately by God. It must be dealt with quickly before it destroys relationships. First, it needs to be recognized as sin and honestly confessed before God. Then, you must do whatever is necessary to do to make the relationship right.. If you are the offended party you must forgive and deal with the issue in a way that will benefit everyone involved. If you have wronged someone make it right whatever that takes. Malicious anger is so evil and destructive, emotionally, physically and spiritually, that we must get rid of it before we murder ourselves with it. Forgive each other for no reason but God’s mercy and do whatever it takes to be at peace with others.

Jesus, next, uses male-female relationships to show that God desires relationships that serve, rather than exploit one another. (5:27-30) Again, Jesus is correcting a misunderstanding that only the act of adultery will be judged. It is not just the action that concerns God, but the selfish lust or greed that leads to the action. God desires a “pure heart” (5:8). To be pure in heart is to do everything to glorify God and serve others. Instead, lust or greed focuses on self and exploits others by using them for one’s own benefit. God calls us to purify the desires of our hearts by filling our minds with his word and by disciplining our bodies to keep busy and focused on doing the good things God has called us to do. This requires daily submission to God, honest confession, regular prayer and accountability to God and others in the body of Christ.

The third example of God’s standards for daily life is illustrated by the commitment of a godly marriage. (5:31-32). Again Jesus is correcting a misunderstanding, that Torah approved of divorce.(Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Instead, Jesus pointed out that Torah was regulating divorce in order to protect its victims from a sinful spouse. Divorce was never part of God’s original plan. It’s caused by sin and is sin. It was permitted by God to protect the offended one (mainly the wife in the patriarchal culture of the day) from an unfaithful spouse or spousal abandonment. Marriage is the ultimate picture of what godly relationships should look like: people committed to one another; able to trust one another totally; a loving ministry team perfectly fitted and brought together by God.

This is the standard that Jesus taught and lived out in his life. When Jesus was hurt and misused he didn’t give vent to His anger. When he was personally hurt he said “father forgive them” and he kept the door to relationship open as he reached out with God’s mercy. Even when he got angry he dealt with it quickly and appropriately confronting those in the wrong so they could be restored to relationship. Jesus was surrounded by women but never, ever exploited one of them in any way. He loved them so much that he wouldn’t even think about using one of them to satisfy himself. He was so focused on what God wanted Him to be and do he wouldn’t be distracted by his own interests. Jesus gave His life for us and sits at the right hand of God meeting our every need so that we, can be what God wants us to be. That is what Jesus did. That is what we should do too.

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