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Summary: In times like these, mature Christians confront issues of the day without feeling compelled to qualify their responses but by forthrightly facing the issues and taking a stand for truth even though it sometimes hurts.

MAKE OR BREAK SITUATIONS PRESENT A DISTINCT CHALLENGE TO CHRISTIANS

“Cross my heart and hope to die!” Did any of you ever use that phrase to swear to a friend that you would keep a promise? As kids, we engaged in such promise making, except that we might have done so with our fingers crossed behind our backs! Big difference between promise-making and promise-keeping!

When we became Christians and began to grow spiritually, supposedly we did what Paul said he did: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away my childish ways.”

The real test of whether or not we as Christians have become mature in our ways . . . relationships . . . dealings with people comes when we find ourselves in a “make or break” situation – such as making decisions that could impact the lives of others . . . promises that change will be for the better . . . an assessment of what the future might be like in a new situation, and acting accordingly (to make it happen).

Given any “make or break” situation, mature Christians do not need to rely on oaths or swearing such as “cross my heart and hope to die” or “with God as my witness” or “I swear on a stack of Bibles”.

The ideal is that a Christian should never have to qualify a promise with an embellished pledge in order to reinforce or guarantee the outcome of a difficult decision, or to persuade anyone else that he is acting in the best interests of all. Our Christian character should make swearing (taking an oath) totally unnecessary.

Jesus addressed the issue of a Christian’s honesty and integrity when, in the Sermon on the Mount, He gave yet another example of how our righteousness ought to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. So, for that reason, and, on the heels of His divorce analogy (divorce being essentially the breaking of an oath):

Jesus addressed the issue of oath taking to demonstrate once again that righteous thinking and acting exceeds the meticulous keeping of an unbearable excess of rules and regulations devised by a self-righteous hierarchy - but rather, reflects a new life, surrendered to the knowing and the doing of God’s Will - no matter what the cost might be – Matthew 5:33-37 . . .

Basically, Jesus is telling us, “Don’t say anything you don’t mean” and “You must not make a promise you cannot keep.” With integrity a Christian speaks!

Christian Integrity – firm adherence to a set of values and a state of being complete (. . . got it together). When Paul left Titus in charge of a new work on the island of Crete, the elder instructed the younger to show his “integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.” When Titus speaks, people listen! Such integrity may present quite a challenge when difficult decisions and heavy demands are required of us - individually. More often than not, the weight of deciding the right thing to do or the best interests of all concerned, tends to put us in a very uncomfortable position - “between a rock and a hard place”.

And, make no mistake about it! A Christian’s commitment to Christ our Lord’s high standard of righteousness can be very costly.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story is the case in point that I have often referenced when speaking of the cost of discipleship. Dr. Bonhoeffer not only prescribed that we as Christians demonstrate an understanding of the “costly grace of God” but he lived it to an extreme that hopefully none of us will ever be exposed to.

As a Christian theologian and writer, Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the Nazi regime landed him in prison. He had denounced the Marxist political system that had taken root in his beloved Germany, stating that it (the Marxist socialist regime) had “grossly misled a nation and made the Fuhrer its idol and god.”

In April 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested without being charged, was moved from one prison camp to another for two years; two days before the surrender of Germany in 1945, he was executed in a German concentration camp.

Bonhoeffer was one of many Christian martyrs of the twentieth century - all of whom we look back upon as Christians of integrity!

Meanwhile, little ole you and me think we’ve got a lot to put up with in this world in which we live - and most of us were not cut out (called) to become “activists”. So,

What is the point Jesus made in bringing up all these “hot button” issues?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” at work - in the lives of those who are totally surrendered to Christ Jesus! It’s a matter of the heart!

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