Responding to what Jesus said (Matthew 5:17-48)

There are several applications that we can make from this passage. The first concerns the authority of Jesus. He does not depend on the opinion of others. Instead he claims for himself full and final authority to say what the Word of God means. He does not offer suggestions, instead he provides the correct understanding regarding how the Lord requires his Word to be obeyed. Jesus had this authority because he is God.

Second, it is clear from the way that Jesus interpreted the examples he mentioned that it is crucial for his disciples to remember the reality of eternity. The reason why we don’t get angry and the reason why we don’t allow immoral thoughts is that there are eternal consequences if we do not repent of such sins. It is a question that is worth pondering – did we think of eternity today? I don’t mean that we should recognise that we will die, because that is obvious. Instead, the question is, where will we be in eternity?

Third, it is required of Christ’s disciples that they treat other humans with dignity, even when they are not treating the disciples in such a manner. Such a respect is seen in the examples that Jesus gives about turning the other cheek, carrying a load and helping the needy. A disciple of Jesus recognises that other people are made in the image of God.

Fourth, it is obvious that Jesus taught that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. God’s law is not mainly about outward conformity to its requirements, although outward alignment is important. Instead he is concerned about what we think about and why we say things and do things. Refraining from the physical acts of murder and adultery does not mean that we are obeying God’s law from the heart. There has to be inner change.

What does it mean to have a right heart? Is it to replace a wrong thought with a right one? So if I have hateful thoughts about someone, do I replace them with nice thoughts about that person? I would suggest that is to aim too low. We can only have right thoughts about other people when the One who fills our heart is God. I would suggest that is why Jesus tells his disciples to model themselves on God and not on what they might deduce are good intentions. If we love sinners the way God does, then we will do our best for them. If we love purity the way that God does, we will fill our minds with thoughts about his holiness and will admire his beauty. 

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