Tuesday, February 8, 2011

First Thoughts for Sunday Feb. 13th

This is the third week in a five week series based on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, called "The Heart of Christianity." We are exploring the core of the open hearted way of Jesus as Matthew gathered it together in this amazing collection. Today we read the rest of chapter 5, verses 21-48.
There is a common, fairly cynical perception out there that most politicians lack integrity. They say one thing during election time and do another the rest of the time. Often Christians are accused of something similar kind of hypocracy, holding strong convictions on Sundays that we can't live up to in the rest of life. I have a friend who once said, "Of course I'm a hypocrite, and I know it. I'm a Christian." Jesus set the ethical bar really high, and none of us attain it. That is why grace is so important.
This week, we see just how high he set that ethical bar. This is his arguement to those who say he is watering down the law. He picks a series of hot button issues: anger and conflict, lust and sex outside of marriage, divorce, punishment (eye or an eye and all that), treatment of enemies. Each time he lays out the common teaching, and then offers his approach, and each time, his approach does two things: it sets the bar higher, and it sets the bar inside the person, in your heart and mind.
So Jesus' ethics are not about meeting the letter of the law, the outer requirements, but meeting the spirit of the law, the inner requirement. That makes ethics a spiritual practise.
At first reading, these teachings feel harsh, unrealistic, super-human. There is no way I can measure up. But is it a question of  "measuring up" or a question of the inner world lining up with the outer world? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Will
    Your comments “Jesus' ethics are not about meeting the letter of the law, the outer requirements, but meeting the spirit of the law, the inner requirement. That makes ethics a spiritual practise” made me stop and do a bit of soul searching/inner reflection on what is really going on for me or anyone else when our ethical values get tested. Is it about considering who is right on the outside, and who is following the ‘law’ – written or unwritten? Somewhat. However, I think the deeper conflict comes within ourselves. Ethical dilemmas for me are an internal struggle with myself to recognize what I know is right in my heart and what is just. If my decision doesn’t rest peacefully with me as one that fits and lines up with my ethics and values then I don’t feel comfortable about my decision. I am then not at peace with myself nor with God.
    I am simplifying a lot here, as the inner struggle is one that can go on for a while and some situations are way more complicated than simply making the statement ‘though shall not steal’, therefore I know it is wrong to steal therefore I don’t do it. The tests of ethical boundaries we face each day are not as simple as that. Those tests come in situations which take us on a private and internal journey of sorting out what we must do when we are faced with ethical situations. Perhaps it is neither a question of ‘measuring up’ nor a question of lining up the inner world with the outer world. Perhaps it is a question of lining up/levelling the internal struggles within ourselves until we make choices that are ethically and morally correct and in alignment with our values. Then I think, what internal framework do we each use as tools to sort through ‘sticky situations’ and make the ethical choices? Are those frameworks similar or very different? What part does experience play in helping us to set ethical boundaries?