Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Sermon on the Mount Is Shocking

The epic speech given by Jesus, known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” is considered by many theologians as the blueprint for how to live the Christian life. The sermon is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapters 5, 6, and 7.

However, if the Sermon is such a good blueprint, how come hardly anyone even tries to live up to it? Let’s take a look.

The first part of the Sermon on the Mount is the famous series of statements called The Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit….Blessed are those who mourn….Blessed are the meek” etc., etc. Everyone wants to be “blessed,” which is defined as being happy and fulfilled and in a proper relationship with God. But in our modern culture, who really wants to mourn and be meek? Someone might say, “Being a sad wimp is no way to succeed in this competitive world!” 
Then there is the ninth and final beatitude: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.”

“Wait a minute, pal,” our same friend might offer, “Are you saying if I get persecuted and have people lie about me, then I’ll be blessed? No thanks. I already get enough of that on Facebook and Twitter!”

If you think the Beatitudes are difficult to embrace, take a gander at some of the other teachings Jesus proclaimed in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. Here are a couple of very counter-cultural statements by the Lord: “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” and, “Whoever divorces his wife…causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

“Tell me you’re joking, right?” our friend says, this time through clenched teeth. “This is the modern world, for crying out loud! A little porn never hurt anyone. And have you seen Trixie in Customer Service? Whoa, she is hot! Also, who cares if someone gets divorced and remarried a couple of times? What are you supposed to do, spend your whole life with one woman after you fall in love with someone else? Sheesh!”

Here are a couple more teachings by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well,” and, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
“OK, now I know you’re living in La-la Land,” our friend exclaims. “I get it that we’re supposed to be peaceful and not harm innocent people. But you’re saying if someone hauls off and hits me in the face, I’m NOT supposed to defend myself? And then I’m supposed to love those jerks who keep posting nasty things about me on social media? No way, bud. I hate ‘em. And I hope they all get run over by a bus!”

Hmm, even if our fictitious friend here is a bit of an exaggeration, I think you can see why the Sermon on the Mount is so out of touch with modern sensibilities. One final teaching from the end of the Sermon on the Mount might be the most stunning of all. In chapter 7, verse 21, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”

Jesus is saying here that even if someone sincerely proclaims, “Jesus is Lord,” and goes to church once in a while, it may not be good enough to get to Heaven. A couple of verses later, Jesus explains, “I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’”

These might be the most frightening words in the whole Bible. Even if we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we still could be in big trouble if we don’t follow His blueprint for discipleship: The Sermon on the Mount. But nobody follows the Sermon on the Mount! Does this mean we’re all doomed?

Nope. We certainly deserve to be doomed, but Jesus’ love and mercy are more powerful than our sin. The key is when Jesus said, “I never knew you.” We have to KNOW the Lord, not just know ABOUT Him. 

A good first step would be to acknowledge that the Sermon on the Mount is indeed a wonderful blueprint for the Christian life, despite being so out of step with our modern world. Then we should try to incorporate a couple of Jesus’ statements in the Sermon into our lives. At least we’ll be heading in the right direction. It’s worth a shot, since there’s nothing better than Jesus telling us that we are “blessed.” 

1 comment:

  1. "We certainly deserve to be doomed'...????
    Millions of people in this country get up each day and try with what resources and abilities they have to live decent good lives. Plenty of them are struggling against obstacles. Most of them spend a big chunk of their time, energy and resources, not on themselves, but caring for the needs of family and other loved ones. Some have chosen professions or taken jobs that means their entire life and or workday is devoted to their fellow humans. In addition many of them also volunteer their free time on a regular basis. We don't deserve to be doomed at all.
    Ruth O'Keefe