Certificates of Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)

But Jesus doesn’t stop at adultery and lust. He continues the theme of what constitutes godly sexuality by addressing a particular aspect of divorce that was hotly debated by his fellow rabbis. Even though marriage was regarded as binding for life, Jewish law made an exception for husbands who provided their wives with a “certificate of divorce.” This was because men who wanted a divorce were falsely accusing their wives of adultery, thereby scandalizing them or subjecting them to being stoned to death. A divorced woman was “damaged goods”–a social outcast who lost all means of financial support for herself and her children. She was often forced into promiscuity to avoid being destitute. When Moses saw this happening, he allowed a man to legally end a marriage by giving his wife a “certificate of divorce,” a kind of “no fault” technicality that would allow her to legally remarry. By Jesus’ time, rabbis hotly debated Continue reading “Certificates of Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)”

The Adulterous Heart (Matthew 5:27-30)

The 7th Commandment prohibits married people from having sex outside their covenant relationship. But this commandment is ultimately not about adultery; rather, it’s about marriage.

What does this law tell us about the Law-Giver? In Genesis, we read that God created humanity—male and female—in his divine image. Throughout Scripture, marriage is revered as an exclusive, legal, lifelong covenant between a man and a woman that forms the basis for the family. Later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul will declare that marriage is actually a picture of the mutual selflessness that characterizes the love that Christ and the Church have for one another.

God ordained the deep intimacy of marriage—expressed in the “one flesh mystery” of sex—as the setting where a husband and wife learn to give themselves fully to each other. The Holy Spirit uses the radical honesty and faithfulness required in marriage to transform our character. As we learn to live interdependently rather than insist on our own way, we become Continue reading “The Adulterous Heart (Matthew 5:27-30)”

The Murderous Heart (Matthew 5:21-26)

Jesus begins with the 6th Commandment, the prohibition against the unauthorized taking of life. It would be easy to think that Jesus is simply expanding the definition of murder to include anger and disrespect. But there’s far more at issue.

Whenever we look at the Law, it’s instructive to ask:

  • What is this command revealing about the character of the Law-Giver?
  • What and who is God protecting by prohibiting certain actions and attitudes?

This commandment is not ultimately about death; rather, it’s about life. It reveals the Lord’s rightful role as Creator and Judge. Human life is sacred because God breathed his own breath into Adam. Life’s Author is life’s authority.

All death—whether from crime, war, disease or old age–is the consequence of our disobedience to God. While God allows Continue reading “The Murderous Heart (Matthew 5:21-26)”

Fulfilling the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)

As the Lord gives Israel the Law on Mt. Sinai, he says, “I AM the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). It’s easy to miss that the Law was a confirmation of an existing relationship rather than a pre-condition to it. They were already his.

The Ten Commandments contain four vertical commands and six horizontal ones–summarizing what it looks like to be God’s child and to live with his children. But time and again, Israel and her leaders ignored the Law or malpracticed it by turning it into a series of transactional behaviors divorced from its relational heart.

By transactional, think “contractual.” They thought, “If I do this, then God will do that. If I sin, then God will curse me. If I obey, then God must bless me.” The Law became their way of getting God to do what they wanted him to do. At best, God was a cosmic deal-maker; at worst, their personal genie. Their religion became the sum of their transactions.

But God meant the Law to be relational. As if the Lord was saying, “Because you are my child, you will live like this. Your doing Continue reading “Fulfilling the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)”

Kingdom Seekers as Salt, Light and City (Matthew 5:13-16)

Jesus began by describing how we are to be and will soon describe what we are to do. But now he takes a few moments to tell us why: so that others “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

His glory is our mission.

Our meekness will model his character. Our humility will display his strength. Our mercy will confound the self-righteous. Our holiness will convict the unrighteous. Our persecution will make God famous.

Yes, we are blessed as we obey; but that’s just the bi-product. It’s not about our blessing; it’s about God’s glory. Pursue the latter and receive the former. Pursue the former and realize neither.

We are commanded to live lives that reveal God’s character and inspire God’s worship. Jesus gives three analogies: Continue reading “Kingdom Seekers as Salt, Light and City (Matthew 5:13-16)”