Read Matthew 5:27-48
There is no sugar coating here, but we can hope for a little figurative language.
Pluck out your eye if you see an attractive gal and have some lustful thoughts. I guess it’s better than keeping your sight and having your sights set on hell for all eternity.
This is some tough stuff.
Does Jesus really want the year’s fashion to be the Don’t want to go to hell eye patch?
This is one of those teachings where we need to understand that Jesus is talking about being right with God on the inside. The Beatitudes turned people’s world’s upside down or right side up depending upon how you look at it.
Jesus is now turning us inside out with this set of teachings. You can follow the rules of society or religious law and put on a good show, but if your heart is not right, then you are not right with God.
You didn’t really sleep with her or with him. You didn’t really fool around, but you thought about it. You fantasized about it. You gave in to your sinful nature, at least in your mind.
So many of our battles are first won in the heart or in the mind.
I will tell you that if you live in the western world in 2014 and have a tenth of an ounce of libido, the battlefield is all around you.
There are triggers galore. It takes a deliberate effort not to meditate upon them. Because we may confess and be assured of God’s forgiveness; we don’t have to go to the extreme of plucking out our eyes and cutting off hands when we sin in our hearts and minds.
Our minds are seldom idle. Something is bouncing around it there just about all of the time. It might be the cure for cancer but it also might be stuff that we have no business thinking about.
Paul would later tell us some good things to meditate upon. We might want to keep that list handy as we navigate a world doing its best to appeal to a lustful nature within us.
OK, so we get this admonishing teaching. Get our hearts and minds on the things of God and off of the things of the world, but this next part just seems crazy.
If a man divorces his wife for anything other and unfaithfulness, then he has made her guilty of adultery if she marries again.
And the guy she marries is guilty of adultery too.
If you think that was tough teaching 2000 years ago, think about it in 21st Century America. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Divorced couples usually get married again or at least shack up with another partner that they have hopes might be a long term relationship.
This teaching pierces just about every family in America. If you don’t have a brother or sister or aunt or uncle or son or daughter that hasn’t been divorced, you are truly the exception that proves the rule.
Divorce in this century is everywhere.
So to say that if a woman marries again, both she and her new husband have committed adultery is a tough sell when the rest of your message is one of love and reconciliation.
Is marriage a one shot deal? If you mess up, then just hang up the relationship business for good.
Marriage is supposed to be an until death do us part covenant, but much of our modern day ministry is to single moms, victims of broken marriages, and so many other aspects that follow from divorce.
The counsel is stern and it appears unfair to the woman and even to the man who later wants to make a go of it with her.
Is this unfair?
Is Jesus too harsh?
What did he say? He said that the man who divorces his wife takes ownership—at least partial ownership—in what happens to her next. If she remarries, Jesus is saying that the adulterous relationship that followed is credited to his account.
Marriage is designed for the lifetime of the bride and groom. Death should be the only terminating factor.
Divorce must not be a matter of convenience. The Old Testament says that God hates divorce.
The Good News Version gives us these words from God: “I hate it when one of you does such a cruel thing to his wife.”
So God is serious that divorce is not the way.
Jesus is serious that divorce is not the way.
Millions of divorced people come to the church looking for mercy and understanding and healing.
What should we do? Should we say to these divorced people who want to take another shot at marriage, “Away with you adulterers. Be gone you adulteresses?”
No we minister to the sick and hurting and lost. That’s what we do as the Body of Christ.
We don’t tell people that divorce doesn’t matter. It does. It is not what God wants. But somehow people who just could not continue with each other have come to continue in relationship with God.
They come to seek the God of reconciliation. They come hoping for a God who will not divorce them. They come looking for a God of love having failed at least once at being married to another person.
If anyone ever had reason to get a divorce it was God. God would have been completely with his rights and remained righteous by divorcing his creation.
Who could fault God for kicking his creation to the curb and starting over?
But while we were still sinners—we didn’t’ love God, we rebelled against him—God loved us. He loved us so much that this same Jesus—the one and only Son of God—would not only teach us but die for us so our sins would not be held against us.
The model for marriage remains intact. Till death do us part is still the governing parameter.
What should we do?
If you are married, make sure Christ is central. Your marriage will hold.
If you are thinking about marriage, find out if your partner follows Jesus. If you don’t know this, know you are not ready for holy matrimony. Sure, you can shack up with a license that says it is official, but if Christ is not central, don’t expect it to work very well.
Pre-marital counseling is a must. Don’t ask the preacher to do your wedding next week. Guided counsel surely reveals things that need to be addressed before lifelong commitments are made.
If you are too young to be married, just take care of following Jesus. Take care of your part so at whatever point in the future you will be well qualified to be somebody’s life-long partner.
The next piece of counsel is perhaps easier to understand, but sometimes hard to make a habit. It isn’t about swearing in the cussword sense.
It is about having to have something added to your word for your word to be worthwhile.
Jesus says when you say yes then let your answer really be “Yes.”
Will you be here on time tomorrow? Yes.
That’s not yes but, or yes if, or yes I think, or maybe yes. It is just yes.
Does this mean that we stop and think before we reply?
I hope so.
We should think and even pray about whether I should answer in the affirmative. Rushing to respond may produce responses that we really didn’t intend and then don’t know how to get out of other than just not honoring our own word.
If you answer yes with your mouth then answer yes with your life.
Try this one on for size. Is Jesus the Lord of your life?
If you lips say yes, then let your life say yes.
Now apply all of the same thinking to no.
Let your yes really be yes and your no really be no.
Here’s the thing. If Jesus really is the Lord of your life, saying no to things that are not part of what he told you to do comes much easier.
Maybe you don’t have to solve all of the problems of the world. Maybe today you just need to take a gallon of milk over to the family across the street. While you are there, sign them up for Chewy Tuesdays.
Finally we come to Lex Talionis. This law of balanced vengeance is a mid point to reconciliation.
Early on people would settle up with each other along these lines. You took one of my goats, I take two goats and five ducks.
You repond by taking half the herd.
You might call this the law of escalating revenge.
Then came the law. If you did something injurious to me or my family, I was limited to responding in like manner. If you poked out my eye, I was only entitled to take one of your eyes in return.
Eventually, eyes and teeth were replaced with monetary value, otherwise known as awards in civil suits.
Jesus said; let’s stop playing the game of revenge. The greater person must respond with love. Somebody needs to put an end to this. Someone must lead the reconciliation effort.
The heart that plays by the rules of getting even is playing on the wrong field. It is time to change the game.
It is time to live being reconciled to your neighbor, even if they don’t deserve it.
This teaching is not about plucked out eyes and divorce or swearing by the name of heaven. Jesus is talking about playing by a new set of rules. These are rules of love and reconciliation and they originate in our hearts.
These precepts are not what the world uses. The world says I will love you if you will love me back. I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine, yeah, I get that.
Jesus says, the perfect way of the Father is just love, unconditional love.
He is teaching us how to turn the world right side up by letting the law of love and reconciliation rule in our hearts so we can live inside out.