I just finished a Bible study that dug into the Sermon on the Mount. All glory be to God that I got it just in time for the holidays! Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years is a season that traditionally includes many family gatherings and the tricky dynamics that go along with all that “togetherness”. Frankly, scaling Mt. Holiday every year has been quite a challenge for me and that’s why I was very excited and grateful to discover our Lord’s message from another Mount had a whole new meaning for me this year.
Jesus’ sermon examines Kingdom citizen’s hearts (and their relative’s hearts, too -calm down – I’m joking, sort of…). Right from His Righteous lips come the Beatitudes. For the record, I have always considered my attitude an “A” attitude, and the relatives I don’t see eye to eye with “B attitudes.” This gave me a lot to think about:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:2-12)
How gracious of God to get me in front of all those words written in red in my Bible. I’m conflicted about many things. The Sermon on the Mount tackles it all. Could it be my assignment to comfort the poor in spirit? I want mercy – can I demonstrate it? What if the nourishment your siblings are most in need of is a feast of sharing time with children of the light?
In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus goes on to say, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
In His Sermon, Jesus spoke pointedly about Anger, Lust, Divorce, Oaths, Retaliation, and the all-famous Love Your Your Enemies. He talks about holding our tongues – which at the holidays might be your best bet and might make you look “good.” But if we have thought ill about certain family members, God, Who examines the heart knows our sin and we must repent. I have done a LOT of repenting, and now I need to keep my eyes and more importantly my heart fixed on Him who I am desperately dependent on. You see, He knitted me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), so He is 100% aware of my love for Him, my passion and my wickedness. Only He can purely reconcile that. He saves me from me and the influence of this fallen world. I have mentally justified my choices much like Eve justified the fruit as “a delight to the eyes.” (Genesis 3:6) Forbidden then is forbidden now, and partial obedience is disobedience. God doesn’t make it tricky for us.
Our Lord Jesus then reviews Giving to the Needy, teaches us the Our Father, examines Fasting, Lay up Your Treasures in Heaven and reminds us Not to Be Anxious. His mighty words didn’t leave a whole lot of room for interpretation on making worship something that’s between you and Him, and comparing yourself to no one but Him, because everyone else is a sub-par sinner too.
But the next segment of the sermon socked me in the very core of my gut because it’s something I struggle with – Judgment. Often I am disappointed in family member’s behaviors or decisions. But Jesus said I have to make sure I keep myself in check. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) includes me regardless of my love affair with the Bible. In it I am reminded I am adored and beloved, despite my thoughts, words and deeds and despite what I have done or left undone. So that same mercy is afforded our brothers and sisters in Our Father’s eyes. If Jesus’ blood is good enough for their redemption to Him, who are we to say it isn’t good enough for us?
Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) And follows in verse 3 with, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Ouch!!! Take a hard look in the mirror and that thing that is causing you the most pain in your life is probably the log Jesus is talking about. Is your log any more glamourous than your sister-in-law’s speck? I doubt it. Mine sure isn’t. So Jesus says, get yourself straight, living in a God pleasing manner consistently, then help your brother and his blurry vision. God is all about order. Step 1 – fix you. Step 2 – help heal your brother. The powerful takeaway for me was in a chart that compared those who judge biblically versus those that are judgmental. It was the “what” people do or say versus the “why” you think they do or say something. Ouch again for me!!!
There’s so much more He covered in His famous first sermon (yes – this was all ONE sermon). I would encourage you if you have any anxiety about Thanksgiving or Christmas get-togethers due to fractured relationships, please give Matthew 5:1-7:29 a read.
But take this last nugget from our Lord’s mouth with you to whichever table you are setting or sitting at; “Ask and it will be given you.” (Matthew 7:1) I’m asking Him for His words to fill my mouth, and His grace to fill my heart and His mercy to run abundantly through my veins. I’m also asking to simultaneously be salt and appointed peacemaker through His authority. But most of all I am asking Him to help me bring a smile to His Holy, Holy, Holy lips with the way I love all those He has put in my influence. Because my heart is His I simply CAN NOT live to the standards He sets without Him. I am abundantly thankful for that.