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Summary: What do we value more our RIGHTS or our RESPONSIBILITIES

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Sermon on the Mount (3)

Rights and Responsibities of Christians

Story: A number of years ago, Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey, former vice-president of the United States.

Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague.

But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there.

Nobody would look at him much less speak to him.

That person was disgraced former president Richard Nixon.

Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate.

He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency.

Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice.

President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room.

Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself.

He went over to Nixon as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly.

To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said,

"Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!"

One president to another, from different parties, they understood what they had in common, what burdens they had born in common, they were elected presidents.

Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, "If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion."

Reaching out to Nixon wasn’t a vote winner – but Jimmy Carter was a committed Christian – and still is.

And he realised that as a Christian he has RESPONSIBILITIES – and in this case a responsibility for reconciliation

I think our Gospel reading today is one of the most difficult sayings of Jesus, because if we follow them WITHOUT CAREFUL CONSIDERATION our society would degenerate into lawlessness.

Jesus is not telling us to throw the “law out of the window”

Indeed Jesus had a very high view of the Law in the Old Testament and so we ignore it we do so at our peril

He is rather touching on the relationship between our RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES

But before we look at the passage, let’s look a bit at the background to what the Law was all about.

Last week at Magdalen, I explained that there were three different types of OT Law

If I may recap what I said:

There are basically three types of OT LAW

1. THE MORAL LAW

2. THE CEREMONIAL LAW and

3. THE CIVIL LAW

The Moral Law

The Moral Law tells us about God’s character.

These never change, just as God himself never changes

They tell us what God likes and dislikes.

The Ten Commandments for example are MORAL LAW.

Jesus summed up the requirements of God’s Moral Law by applying two great principles.

The first is from Deuteronomy 6:5

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."

The second is from Leviticus 19:18

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Ceremonial Law

The second type of OT Law is the Ceremonial laws - all of which prefigured Jesus’ death on the Cross.


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