Sermon on the Mount, Third

So far, the sermon has given hope for those in distress and challenged the rest of us to have a faith that has impact on our world. The next part is what we in the law would call guidance on statutory construction. Jesus tells us the relationship between his ministry and the Hebrew law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-20. We are about to hear a bunch of specifics about how Jesus is fulfilling the law. Basically, changing the mandates from requiring on certain behavior to require behavior with a state of mind. Good. I think there is profound truth in that. We are good when we refrain from killing, we are better we love those who hate us.

But, before Matt can point it out to me, the Law and the Prophets also say things about stoning people to death for this that and the other. For that matter, the Law talks about what to eat.

Question: How do most Christians rectify this specific statement from Jesus that he is not abolishing the old law, with our disregard for the dietary laws and other customs of the Judaism?

2 thoughts on “Sermon on the Mount, Third”

  1. I hope I wasn’t about to be quite that aggressive, but you never know.

    But your point is the crux of a lot of our discussion lately: how do you choose what from this enormous body of literature, teachings, laws, commandments, examples, metaphors, etc? It’s no small issue, and in fact it’s the single greatest issue in how the Abrahamic faiths are currently aligned and mis-aligned with each other and with secular culture.

    Some have chosen to say that all of this body is to followed 100%. I would hope that most people who go this way are not closely studying it for themselves, because pretty clearly this is impossible.

    I think another common reconciliation is to say that later writings supersede earlier ones. I think that’s natural and creates a consistency that is absent from a lot of other ways people go. “Love others as yourself” and “Let he who is without sin…” go a long way toward erasing some of the earlier, more strident language.

    Still others use the softer stance that Jesus basically preached a ministry of love and compassion and so that’s the important thing: be loving, be compassionate and basically it’ll work out, don’t get too detailed about the law.

    I think the important thing is to choose a system of using the body of literature and understand the system you choose.

  2. Matt,

    First off, I think that is an excellent summary of different approaches to reading the Bible.

    I also agree that a consistent system is necessary. For one, if we are inconsistent, we can let the scripture mean whatever we want it to. Also, others cannot take us seriously if we don’t have a consistent system. Finally, consistency is a quality of truth.

    Thanks.

    I do hope Matt’s excellent response does not discourage other from providing how they personally deal with the cunundrum. đŸ˜‰

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