The theme of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) is Jesus’ call to righteousness. In the commentary section of the NLT Bible, it says (emphasis mine):
“Jesus uses the term for moral behavior that conforms to God’s will. Specifically, righteousness is doing the will of God as Jesus reveals it. This ‘revelation of righteousness’ unifies the entire Sermon. Jesus reveals the will of God as it contrasts with traditions. The realization of the law in Christ means that obedience to all of his commands is the only acceptable response for his disciples.”
Jesus lays out the lifestyle and character of his followers – those who do the Father’s will – through the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). By recognizing our weaknesses, by being humble, by thirsting to do God’s will, we shine a light on the nature of God. By having pure motives and being peacemakers, we carry forward the intent of Jesus.
By doing the right thing – even when no one is looking, even if we are badgered or insulted – we are faithful to the One who saved us by His grace alone. By loving all people, we do not become children of God; we show the world we are God’s children, transformed by Christ.
We must carry the commands of Jesus in our hearts, in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions, for “whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20)
Jesus spoke strongly against anger, name-calling, adultery, lying, retribution, violence, hate and judging others. He told us in order to follow him we need to turn the other cheek, forgive, and love our neighbors. He commanded us to love our enemies, pray for them and go the extra mile for them! Significantly, Jesus told us to ask, and continue asking God for help in keeping these commands because we cannot – and in fact, have a tendency not to – do it on our own.
The apostle Paul clarifies this command beautifully:
Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord. But, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will make him feel guilty and ashamed.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21, Deuteronomy 32:35, Proverbs 25:21-22)
How can we continue to justify chaining ourselves once again to the traditional, pharisaical Old Testament Law and revert back to blood and sacrifice when the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross ended all that forever? We have embraced exclusion and wall-building, support state-sanctioned killing and national war. We have supported class- and race-based justice. How? With our votes. With our sarcasm. With our silence.
In doing so, we allow the Gospel to be kidnapped by wolves in sheep’s clothing professing to be Christian but following an entirely different and destructive “gospel.” When we ignore His true commands, we nail Jesus to the cross all over again.
We must read and deliberate long and hard on the words of Jesus. We must consider the consequences and impact on our own eternal life when we distort his words into something he never had in mind. We must remember The Son’s words came directly from The Father he served – our Father, who desires all of us to be reconciled to Himself.