You Have Heard it Said ...
In the Sermon on the Mount so far, Jesus has been describing what it looks like to be a Kingdom person. Now He is going to take us through some real-life situations and emotions and teach us how a Kingdom person responds to them.
First, Jesus tells us that Kingdom people respond to anger and conflict by pursuing reconciliation with urgency. It’s not enough to refrain from attacking people physically or verbally when you’re upset—that’s a given. Instead, we are motivated by reconciliation so much that we are willing to go to great lengths for the chance to make things right. Jesus says:
“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.” Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
For much of Jesus’s audience, leaving their gift at the altar and returning to their own village would entail something like an 80-mile journey—80 miles on foot, no car, no guarantees! This is the Kingdom way. We go to great lengths to make things right.
We also take drastic measures to avoid sin. Jesus communicates the seriousness of this by saying, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out . . .” Is He speaking literally? No. But dang! He means business! So, what do you need to cut off, unfollow, delete, or block to help you walk in integrity?
Next, we learn that Kingdom people don't try to prove their sincerity; we value honesty. Jesus tells us to let our “yes” mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no.” So we don’t have hidden agendas. We don’t leave things out or add things in to misrepresent a situation. We will be truth-tellers, not fact-twisters.
Jesus raises the stakes for us one more time in this passage by asking us to go above and beyond for everyone and challenging us to show love to our enemies—yep, not just the people we get along with or the people we can mostly put up with, but your least favorite people on their worst of days. That’s who Jesus calls us to pray for and pursue with love.
So why does Jesus spend so much of this sermon raising the standards for His followers? He is showing us that Kingdom people are just as concerned with external actions as we are with internal motivations. We understand that actions come from the inside, not the other way around! So we are called to be people who pay attention to the condition of our own hearts.
Challenge: Be introspective today. That means examine and observe yourself! Why do you do the things you do? What are the internal motivations that lead to your external actions? Write down a few of these observations. Do your motives line up with what His Kingdom is about?