“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21 – 24)

Last week we heard Jesus say that he came to fulfill the law, and not set it aside. We also heard him say that “until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5: 18b) Jesus now expands on that, outlining exactly what the fullness of the law means. It may have not been conveyed in this way by Moses or the prophets that followed him. But the Author of these laws now speaks to his disciples, to us, and to the world – mediated by the gospel writer.

It is tempting to comment on what Jesus said about being in correct relationship with your brother or sister; but I am not going to go down that path. I will say, however, don’t assume narrow boundaries, borders, or parameters of who your brother and sister are!

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Verses 25 – 26)

According to the commentators, this is actually an extension of the exhortation to be in good relationship with others. It is not, therefore, just our fellow believers that we are to be in good relationship with, but everyone in one’s community. It seems to me, beloved reader, that this is a very, very, VERY good exhortation for those in leadership to remember. We have seen this on the national and global stage. Enough said!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Verses 27 – 30)

I think, beloved reader, if (perchance) you are reading this for the first time, or considering it with thorough thought for the first time, you are getting the sense that the Ten Commandments were only the briefest of outlines to what is expected from an authentic Christian believer. Hence the title I used. If one has not reflected previously on what sin may have crept into one’s life, this passage where Jesus drives home the full expectations of the commandments (again, mediated by the writer of the gospel of Matthew), it would certainly behoove one to do it now! I remember as a fairly young child (4th or 5th grade) thinking that I am not a terribly bad sinner. Oh for those blissful days of youthful innocence!

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Verses 31 – 32)

This one was a hard one for me; not because of my marriage but because my parent’s marriage broke up. It is, I think, not so much a comment on the issue of fidelity – but a comment on what the consequences are for not tending carefully to one’s marriage, and one’s spouse. The issues and reasons for a marriage to break apart are complex, and rooted deep in the human heart. And chastity, or the lack of it, is only one reason. If marriage partners would treat each other the way the truest letter and spirit of the Ten Commandments outlines relationships, I do not think divorce would be common at all. Let’s move on.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Verses 33 – 37)

Swearing – language or fulfillment of a promise? In my Anabaptist background the two issues swirl into one. That has resulted in my predisposition to not make a promise I cannot or would not keep. To speak the truth in all things. And to avoid curse words as much as I can. Again, the world we live in could take a lesson here. Maybe you too beloved reader! I know I have to watch my tongue and thoughts.

May we all, beloved reader, heed the words of the Lord God Jesus Christ. Our words, thoughts, and actions say a great deal about us. Let us make sure they are saying the best about us! Selah!