For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
Our survey last week was very telling.Over 60% of us are more likely to throw rocks than we are to show grace.
We can be quick to see faults in others, but usually not so quick to see them in ourselves. Going back to the story in John 8, I suspect that most of us are somewhat grateful for the Pharisees, they make us look good. It’s easy to believe we’re doing OK when we can measure our failures against those of a Pharisee. It’s comforting when we can tell ourselves “I may be bad, but I’m not as bad as __________” (fill in the blank). When we excuse our own bad behavior based on the behavior of someone else we are clearly missing the mark.
Jesus knew we were going to behave this way so He gave a sermon about it.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)
In this passage from what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us “the rest of the story”. He describes for us the completeness of God’s requirements. He tells us that knowing and practicing the letter of God’s law is not enough. If we are serious about looking like Jesus, we’ve got to go beyond the letter of the Law and get to the spirit of the law. We have to abandon the ways of this world and seek the ways of God’s kingdom world. We must practice GRACE in its fullness.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
It’s not enough:
- To ignore those who hurt us – we must also forgive them
- To give/do what is demanded – we must give/act according to the measure of the blessings we’ve been given
- To not hate – we must also show love
- To love only those who love us – we must also love those who despise us
- To show kindness to those who are kind to us – we must also be kind even to those who would cause us harm
- To pray for those whom we love – we must also pray for our enemies
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
We just celebrated Easter, the memory of Christ’s Passion is still fresh in our minds. In those final tortured hours, as throughout His life, Jesus lived out all that He taught; in doing so He left us the example of how we are to live.
Easy? No. Jesus never said it would be.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
But, Jesus did promise that He would give us the GRACE we need to accomplish all that He has called us to.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
If we want to be more like Jesus, we need only ask God to grow in us a spirit of GRACE. If we truly desire it, if we are willing vessels, and if we will be obedient to His Word, He will do it.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I’ll close this week’s post with this:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace