Matthew 5:17-48

In this passage we are met with Jesus’ serious attitude towards the law. There is a tendency as Christians to have a lax attitude about our sins and to excuse them on the basis that they have been eternally forgiven. The devastating flaw in such reasoning lies in the implicit assumptions we make about the consequences of sin. If the pleasures of sin are to us worth its consequences, then at the outset, we have made it significantly easier to give in to temptation and to subsequently justify our wrong. The truth is that the consequence of sin is death — the gradual, imminent death of the true self. To be utterly rationale about sin’s destructive effect on our true selves ought to serve as an effective deterrent to our committing of sinful acts. Thus, the Christian who excuses their sins on the basis that God’s grace covers all sin has been thinking about the whole matter from the wrong angle. Paul asks in Romans 6:1 “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”, and follows the question with an affirmative answer “God forbid”! Jesus echoes this forbiddance in Matthew 5:17 “think not that I am come to destroy the law…but to fulfill it”.  Indeed, a life of righteousness, a life of unwavering obedience to the law of God is of such paramount importance to Jesus that in the passage presented above, he gives what seems like impossible commands to obey. In verse 19 he says, “whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven”. In verse 20, “for I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven”. In verses 27-28, “ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery: “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”. We read these sayings of Christ and shudder at the possibility of strict obedience of every letter, in every waking moment, under all circumstances whether convenient or inconvenient. The law is the law, and we are required to obey every bit of it. God’s holiness demands of us perfect obedience. What should we make of a perfectly good God who let “little” sins slide? When we begin to speak like that, then where is the line to be drawn on these supposedly “little” sins. A very bad man will stretch it further than a moderately bad man. Here then lies the great dilemma. God’s holiness demands of us perfect obedience but our frail, ignoble, sinful nature cannot of its own possibly attain such a standard. Even the righteousness of the best amongst us are like a “filthy rag” before God. What are we to do? What is God to do? Well God has done His part, by sending his son Christ to live the perfectly righteous life we couldn’t live; in other words, to fulfill the law. What we can do is to accept Christ’s righteousness. However, our obedience to the law ought not to stop after that point. Christ still considers obedience to the law very seriously that he suggests that we take drastic measures to avoid sin. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” The idea here is not for this statement to be taken literally, but rather to be seen as Jesus thinking it necessary that we take whatever measures needed to avoid sinning. If there are certain places that create an atmosphere ripe for sin, then we must abstain from such places. If there are relationships that cause us to stumble and fall in our Christian walk, then we must sever all such ties. In brief, we are to view sin with the same seriousness as Christ and to take all measures necessary to reduce the likelihood of giving in to temptation and committing sin.

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