Summary: How God's law and God's love satisfy justice
Life and Death…Reconciling the Law and Love
Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
When I looked at the date I would be speaking to you this time and saw that it was Feb 13th I thought how great it was going to be to speak about God’s love so close to the day we all proclaim ours on Valentine’s Day!
In fact one of my favorite gospel songs is by Janet Paschal called “Written in Red.”
It begins with the words, “In letters of crimson, God wrote his love, on a hillside so long, long ago. For you and me, Jesus died and love’s greatest story was told.”
Our texts this morning are not necessarily the soothing words of the lover of our souls as much as they are a scolding from someone who loves us far too much not to warn us about matters as serious as life and death.
If you have what is called a “red letter edition” of the Bible, you know whenever it quotes the actual words spoken by Jesus those words are printed in red ink. They also have quotation marks to show that Jesus was talking.
Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 are almost entirely written in red ink.
Jesus is on a roll here. He is preaching to the crowds who already know a lot of the ancient scriptures. (That is a hard group to preach to!) They think they know it all already and do it all already. But Jesus knows they do not comprehend the depths of sin or realize how impossible it is for anyone to keep the law.
Since Eve succumbed to the lie of Satan we are pre-programmed with a default setting for self sufficiency instead of God sufficiency. We don’t think we have a problem.
Deciding that we are going to follow Jesus’ moral code in the Sermon on the Mount simply won’t work.
Even if we want to do good, we can’t sustain it for a long period of time before self interest takes over again.
And because the brain is a wonderful self-justifying organ, we believe deep down that we are good people.
Jesus came to tell us and demonstrate for us how far away from being “perfect” we really are, and then die to make a way for His perfection to become ours.
We tend to think of the Old Testament as being full of law and vengeance and can’t wait to get over into the New Testament gospel of Jesus and love. But here we see Jesus using the Old Testament law as his text and expanding its meaning!
Jesus begins by saying, “You have heard, but I say…”and he compares being angry at someone as being just as serious a sin as murder which carries with it the penalty of hell! (And he says insults and name-calling count just as much.)
Oh, no, what are we going to do?
Then he goes on to say that if they are worshipping (like good Jews, Pharisees or Christians) and think about someone who is mad at them they should even leave the worship service and go out and be reconciled with that person before they come back to church to even put something in the offering plate.
(How can I help it if someone is mad at me?)
Be reconciled? What a strange piece of advice.
If I am not mad at them and they are still mad at me how can I make sure we reconcile?
Do you think maybe Jesus was pointing out that he is always ready to reconcile with us and we are the ones who are guilty of offending and being offended?
And yet we say we are worshipping him before we have even accepted his forgiveness for our sin.
We feel guilty so we come to church and make an offering but we go home feeling just as guilty as before and we still hold guilt against others too.
Now that point would hit just about everyone squarely in the eye most of the time. But in case they were good even-tempered folks with absolutely no quarrels or hard feelings with anyone, then Jesus went on to preach on his next point of reference.
“You have heard….do not commit adultery….but I say if you have ever looked at a woman in lust you have already committed adultery with her in your heart.”
Now, I don’t know many men who wouldn’t just go ahead and be honest enough to admit that they have looked at some of the beautiful women in the world or in a Hollywood film and just for a moment wondered what it would be like to be with her.
I am not saying they would actually do it, but Jesus isn’t either! He is saying that the mind is the first battlefield where we fight against following up on a sinful thought.