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Reconciliation People

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We’re studying the Sermon on the Mount
Last week we learned that Jesus didn’t come (as many had hoped and thought) to abolish the law. He said, he came to fulfill the law; that is, to accomplish all the things that the books of the law and the books of the prophets said would happen.
But Jesus also said some uncomfortable things about the actual commands that are found in the OT. He said, his disciples aren’t to relax on the commands, but instead disciples are supposed to do them and teach others to do them to.
And the last little interesting piece is what Jesus said about a disciple’s behavior, he says:

A Greater Righteousness

Matthew 5:20 ESV
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

A Greater Righteousness

So, in other words unless we have a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the really-super-holy guys, we’re not entering the Kingdom. And again, when we hear Kingdom, we need to say: “The Reign of Christ” not a disembodied realm somewhere in the clouds.
The Kingdom (Reign of Christ) is over those who have a righteousness that is greater than the religious leaders. And you obtain that righteousness NOT by upping the ante of acting more and more religious, but by having a righteousness that goes beyond an outward obedience to the law. There must be an inward, whole-person behavior that accords with God’s nature and the coming Kingdom.
And that’s what Jesus means when he says that he’s come to fulfill the law and the prophets. He’s come to bring the life and faith that the law itself could not bring.
So, as we study the exegesis of how Jesus intends for this to play out, let us understand that Jesus did not come to bring a new law, but a new heart so that his disciples would have the desire and the power to follow Christ in reflecting God’s character to the world.

A New View of Wholeness

And that’s what holiness is all about. Church, I talk to so many people who have a view of holiness that completely misses the point. We act as if God’s happiness depended on our ability to not commit a lot of sin or certain sins. We have traced this back so many times, but I’ll say it again, God’s intent for his people was always that they would glorify Him. That hasn’t changed. Glorifying him, doesn’t mean make him happy. The way some Christians talk, God is the egomaniac King sitting in heaven on his throne watching his inventions perform. And when they do stuff on his good list he’s happy and when they do stuff on his bad list he’s sad or mad.
“To glorify God is to reflect His nature. He is pleased when we glorify Him because he wants people to know Him and what He is like.”
That’s what being salt and light is all about. God chose people (image bearers) to reflect his nature to the world as a way of showing the world what he is really like.
God acts in love because
So as we come to these next several sections, we must understand, Jesus is not giving the people more of the same of what their religious leaders were giving them. He’s not saying, “Moses said don’t do this, but I’m going to squeeze all of the fun out of life and I’m going to make things even harder.” That’s not what Jesus is doing at all. What Jesus is doing is showing us the full flower or the fulfilled view of the law.
And what better place for Jesus to start than with God’s wisdom for human relationships.
Matthew 5:21–26 ESV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.


Father, you know that we are but flesh. And it’s a mystery that you would choose to call the weak and broken to reflect who you are, but here we are. We are your family, we are your people, and we want to live our life on your mission to make disciples in our homes, our church, and in our relationships with those who don’t know you. We need your wisdom and your grace to understand your word, so Spirit please help us.
What is Jesus saying?
Jesus affirms the law, he doesn’t abolish it, and then he tells the disciples with the authority (that no prophet, scribe, or pharisee would ever have spoken with) what the greater righteousness or what wholeness of person actually looks like.
The new heart that Jesus brings is a heart that is not only concerned with the outward obedience to the law, but is moved to understand God’s wisdom underneath the law.
And what is wisdom that’s underneath the command to NOT murder someone?
and the rightness of human relationships that even the smallest degrading thought of another human being is worthy of the greatest punishment and will limit your ability to offer true worship. Let us be a people who are quick to confess, quick to apologize, quick to forgive, and quick to reconcile.
God cares deeply about the sanctity and dignity of human life and the rightness of human relationships that even the smallest degrading thought of another human being is worthy of the greatest punishment and will limit your ability to offer true worship.

The new heart that Jesus brings is a heart that is not only concerned with the outward obedience to the law, but is moved to understand God’s wisdom underneath the law.

The heart of the religious person is very pragmatic: “God doesn’t want me to murder someone, okay I can manage that. But that doesn’t mean I have to be nice to them or like them. I will secretly hope that they die in a fiery crash.”
And because we live in a pragmatic society, we’re actually not very far from that line of thinking. “Give me the rules and I’ll do em.’”
Jesus is saying, “Yes, it’s still against God’s law to kill someone, but just because you don’t kill someone isn’t the point.” See, being a new creation with a new heart means we are soft to understand God’s wisdom.
All you have to do is replay some of the oldest stories in the Bible to find out that NOT murdering someone was actually a pretty big step forward. It was a big step forward for the Israelite community and it was a way that the people of God could stand out from the rest of the world. When you live in a world that is overcome with violence (like the ancient world) a law that demands a whole nation not to use murderous revenge to resolve their inner relational conflict was a pretty big deal.
But as nations became less barbaric this law became almost something to gloss over. By now, none of the super-religious people (Scribes and Pharisees) were killing people.
But clearly there were deep issues of the human heart. A murderous person is a person who has devalued a person’s life enough times that they have desensitized the ending of human life.
Jesus clearly lays it out for his listeners that underneath the law to not murder someone is God’s own heart.

God cares deeply about the sanctity of human life

We get the sanctity part… kind of. When we think of sanctity of human life or what is often called being “pro-life”, we naturally think about being anti-abortion. And we should. But we should be equally affected by any form of human life taken.
We must take the time to think deeply about issues of violence of any kind towards another human being. Because God cares deeply about human life.
I read two bumper stickers this week that I think get to the point Jesus is making:
“Play me like a fiddle, and I’ll beat you like a drum.”
“Do the world a favor, shoot a liberal.”
How does God’s own concern for human life inform what you post on social media / what you watch / what games we play and let our kids play?

God cares deeply about the dignity of human life

The Gospel shows to us that we are all created in the imago dei. Everyone in every race, everyone in every social status, everyone in every generation, everyone in every gender is created in the image of God and is worthy of dignity.
And every disciple of Jesus is salt and light by how they interact with every image of God. So Jesus says,
“Yes, murder is worthy of God’s judgement.”
“But anger towards a brother or sister is worthy of God’s judgement as well.”
“And don’t assume that because you don’t act on your anger towards one another, you’re ok, because if you harbor contempt towards another, you are liable of judgement from the highest court in the land.”
“And lastly, if you even as much as tear down another one of my creations, you deserve the fire of hell.”
The point that Jesus is making is that the way we feel about other human beings in our own hearts and minds is a reflection of who we really are.
And he’s simply saying, “The new heart that I’m bringing, harbors no thoughts of contempt, or anger, or bitterness towards anyone.” The new heart that Jesus brings sees everyone the way God sees them.
There is no place in the kingdom of God for elitism, sexism, or racism. There is no room for religious snobbery.
No matter what we look like on the outside, the heart of every human being looks like it’s been infested with the cancer of sin, and unless we receive the healing of the grace of Jesus, we die in our sin. Just as every cancer survivor longs for every other person infected with cancer to be healed, so every disciple who has been healed by the grace and love of Jesus wants every other sinner to be healed by the grace and love of Jesus; that’s the heart of a disciple; that’s the greater righteousness.
Now, is Jesus being serious? Is he saying that the emotion of anger that every human has is sinful? And we shouldn’t ever be angry?
There are two stories that come to mind when I think of the anger of Jesus:
The turning of the tables
The death of Lazarus
So let’s compare - Jesus is saying that the new heart isn’t angry at a brother. Commentators are not settled on whether or not he means brothers as in Christians? Or brothers as in any human being? I think that might be missing the point. But even if it is just a brother (Jewish person) when Jesus was angry to the point of turning the tables, what was he angry at?
He was angry at the systematic injustice of the religious leaders. They literally had developed system to steal from other people in the name of YHWH. Jesus was not angry at a brother, he was angry at what the very people God raised up to look out for the people was doing to the people.
In the second story, Jesus is standing outside of the tomb of one of his friends who has now been dead for four days. As Jesus looks around him the entire city is mourning, but the emotion Jesus experiences first is anger. The Greek phrase John uses in his Gospel account is translated “Jesus was deeply moved.” But that doesn’t tell us what Jesus did in order to express that he was deeply moved. The literal translation is that Jesus flared his nostrils. And it’s typically used when someone is angry. What was Jesus angry at? I believe that Jesus was angry at the effect that sin has had on the world that led to the death and suffering.
In both cases of Christ’s anger, we do not see a man who is a fly-off-the-handle guy. We see a man who is concerned for the people and affected and moved to action.
Now, to this group of new disciples, Jesus reminds them of what the law has already been saying and that is that:

God cares deeply about rightness in relationships

He says:
Matthew 5:23–24 ESV
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Matt 5:23-
It’s so fascinating to me that Jesus illustrates his point with a parable about worship and relationships. We’re pretty conditioned to see these two as separate, non-related topics. But Jesus wants to make sure we don’t do that. We tend to see our relationship with God as separate from everything else we do in life.
We talk so intimately about a personal or private relationship with God. And while there are personal aspects of our relationships, they are anything but private. There’s always you, and everyone you relate with, and God.
But the point Jesus is making is that your relationship with God and your relationships with other people are actually linked.
Amos was a prophet around the same time as Isaiah and Hosea to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and he wrote during a time when Israel was rebellious to God’s law, but still experiencing prosperity, so no real urgency to repent.
Well, in one of Amos’s sermons he (speaking for YHWH) lets them know that God was going to reject their offerings and their songs, he was going to reject their worship, here’s why:
Amos 5:7 ESV
O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!
Amos 5:11 ESV
Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.
Amos 5:12 ESV
For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Instead of bringing me your offerings and singing your songs, go back to the gates and make things right:
Amos 5:24 ESV
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
There is no relationship that you’ve ever had that God does not care about.
And your relationship with God is linked to your relationship with others.
God cares deeply about your relationships. But why?
Because as people created in the image of God, we’re relational as He is relational. The Trinity is a community. We lie about who God is if we aren’t reflecting the relational nature of God. And if the way we deal with conflict and disagreements, and tough relationships is severance, we’re lying about who God is.
God is a God of reconciliation. In fact, the Gospel story is the story of a good and generous God who gave everything to a people who were ungrateful and selfish, and when they turned their back on Him, He sought to bring them back into a relationship, and the cycle of God’s reconciliation continued as Christ became the final offering of reconciliation on the altar of the cross. Because of Jesus we (non-Jews) have been invited to a living, reconciled relationship with our Creator-God. We enjoy the benefits as if we had never been selfish and sinful.
So what shall we do with this?

Let us be a people who are quick to confess, quick to apologize, quick to forgive, and quick to reconcile.

The simplicity of the call does not equal the complexity of the calling. Reconciliation and confession and forgiveness are not easy, but it is the truth about who God is and that is who we are called to reflect.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15 ESV
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Cor 5:14-
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This is what Jesus meant when he said that the life of human flourishing is the life of peacemaking.
We are not called to do this alone or in our own natural power. But as the people of God we are indwelled with the Spirit of God, gifted by the Spirit of God to join in the mission of making disciples; being salt and light by being a part of the reconciliation people.
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