But What Are You For?
Blessed are the . . . Matt. 5:3–11
It’s easy in life to shoot at what we’re against. On a dime, most of us can whip up a little righteous indignation. Protests? Piece of cake. The converse, however—passion and action to live out what we say we’re for—we’re less clear on how to do that.
The Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5–7 in the book of Matthew, turns the tables on most sermons because Jesus tells us how to skip reaction through anger for “action in love.” He all but spells out how to live and what to expect if we live that way. Starting with the Beatitudes—the “blessed,” a list of affirmations—He moves into commands. We are led from who we are and why we’re happy to a how-to for staying that way. Call 'em “commands with captions.”
Chapter 6 is a person’s roadmap through everyday life: from private acts of righteousness to giving, prayer, forgiveness, devotion, materialism, faithfulness, and our daily needs. Jesus urges his people to be faithful. Trust in God, He says. Don’t give in to worry. Let it go. Have faith.
Concluding the sermon (in chapter 7), Jesus draws a bright yellow mental marker over the idea of justice. Judge v-e-r-y carefully, he says. Let honest self-examination be your guide to judge anyone else. Be slow to condemn, yet don’t be too soft. Look for answers. Turn to God for the key to judgment. Justice lies in treating others as we wish to be treated. Follow Jesus, not the world’s way. Look to the humble for guidance; be skeptical of celebrities and observe their words. How do they treat others? Do they follow Jesus?
Does the Christian life come with a roadmap? Yes, of course; it’s called the Bible. But in our busy world, we prefer shortcuts. The Sermon on the Mount . . . well, yes, it itemizes the whys and hows to follow Jesus. But is there a synopsis?
Yes, as it happens there is in Matthew 22:37-40:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.