Tuesday, January 27. Matthew 5:21-26
Did you know that you can murder someone with your eyes? In my family, we call it “the Look.” I have died a thousand deaths from that glare, believe me. And I, too, am a murderer.
Today’s reading continues Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told us, in the main text for the week (Matthew 5:1-20), that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Here is an important thing to remember about the Law of Moses (Exodus – Deuteronomy): It was given to a specific group of people, in a specific time, for a specific purpose. The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for nearly 400 years. They did not know God, they did not know the basic steps of living on their own, and they definitely did not know how to be a nation. They were like little children who needed a very concrete list of rules to protect them and shape them.
Israel was in a very different situation when Jesus showed up, centuries later. The problem was that the religious leaders had taken the ancient Law of Moses and turned it into a set of universal rules that had to be followed perfectly in order to be acceptable in society. This is called legalism.
The problem with legalism is that it is possible to obey the specific law with your outward behavior while still having a dark and hateful heart.
We will explore this idea all week as we read the rest of Matthew 5. Jesus starts each section with, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times…” then he goes on to say, “But I say to you…” Jesus does two things by speaking this way. First, he exposes a deeper law that was always behind the Law of Moses. Second, he demonstrates that he is the same voice of God that gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is a new day, a new mountain, and time for a renewal of the deeper law.
What is the deeper law? Love.
Today’s spin on love demonstrates how love keeps us from murder. If you hate someone, or even speak harshly to or about someone, you have murdered them in your heart (that includes gossip, BTW). It’s that simple.
Think about all the people you have murdered. Ask God to forgive you and to replace that hatred with God’s love. Then, go, and make things right with that person today.