As we move on to our third section on the sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues to teach about what he expects from his disciples in terms of the Law. The Law being the commands and ordinances God had given to the people of God to help them understand what it means to be a people to live in such a way that they reflected the character of God to the world around them.
Jesus has said elsewhere that the Law can be summed up in one two-part command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus at point is elaborating on what it means for us to not only Love God, but for us to love one another in the manner in which God would have us love, that is to live the love we experience from God in all our relationships with others. In this particular section of the Sermon on the Mount in his teachings, Jesus mirrors the commands found in the latter half of the Ten Commandments, the core of the Law given to God's people via Moses on mount Sinai when the Hebrew people covenanted with God for God to be their God and for them to be the people of God.
The first part of the Ten Commandments deals with what it means to love God. The second part deals with loving others. Jesus begins with looking at the command against murder. He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder.’” He then goes one to say that if you are angry with someone that a kin to murder. He also says that speaking unkind words, calling people names is a kin to murder.
Jesus is explaining that the command to not murdering others is about more than simply not killing them. When we respond to those around us in unloving unkind ways we are breaking this command, whether we would EVER even think about murdering someone or not. Jesus goes on to say that if someone has a problem with you, even if you realize this in the middle of making an offering at the temple, you should go seek to make things right with you. He also says that when you have done something wrong and someone has a problem with you, you should settle that disagreement as well. Whether you are at fault or whether you are not, you are to work to set things right with the people around you.
Jesus then moves on to the command against adultery. Most people would agree that stepping out on your spouse not an acceptable thing to do in our society. It is not the proper way to treat a spouse. Jesus says if you look lustfully at someone else that it is the same as adultery. Again, this is about how you are treating other people. First of all, how you are treating your spouse but also how you are treating the people in the world around you. When Jesus is speaking about looking lustfully at someone, what he is meaning is more than just noticing someone is attractive. The world is full of handsome men and beautiful women and most of notice this from time to time and that is fine. Seeing a person as attractive is not lust. Lust is when you look at another person as the object of desire. Lust is the line between noticing someone whose appearance is pleasing to the eye, and objectifying another human being because they are attractive to you. Objectifying someone is when you look at them and only see them as the attractive parts of their body. You notice the attractive waitress, or you notice a pair of legs. When a person is simply their parts, particularly the parts you like to look at, you are objectifying them. A person is more than just the attractive parts of their body, they are a whole being who is to be treated with dignity and respect. Ultimately lust goes against the loving other part of loving God and loving other because lust is one of the many ways we can treat a person as a thing instead of a person.
This is not just about how you are treating the passerby in the red dress, but it is also about how you are treating your spouse, when you objectify a stranger, you are also objectifying your spouse. When your head turns after a tall drink of water who just passed by on the street, and you turn that person into an object to be admired (perhaps even possessed) you are turning your spouse into an object as well, one that does not please you as much as that handsome thing that just walked by.
Jesus then goes on to say if it is your eye that is wandering gauge out, if it is your hand that is wandering cut it off. Jesus believes all people are people not matter how . . . who they are. People are never things, they should never be treated as less than human, there is no excuse to keep treating people in ways which dehumanize them, or objectify them in anyway. Jesus tells us, his disciples should be willing to go to extreme measures to love others properly at all times.
He then goes on to talk about divorce. We should begin by noting the words Jesus uses when it comes to divorce. Jesus talks about a husband dismissing his wife. Jesus is speaking in a time when all a husband had to do was give his wife a writ of divorce and he could be done with her, for whatever reason. This is once again about treating people properly. When you take this in context and remember this is one sentence after Jesus just warned people about lust, we should assume the two are connected. When you dismiss your spouse to run after someone else, that does not make things “right.” Just because you freed yourself up to chase after the new “object” of your desire, does not make it right. Your spouse is not a household item you can get rid of when you lose interest or find one that you like better. Again, this is about treating people with respect and dignity.
Jesus rounds things out by addressing the final commandment on bearing false witness. Jesus says that we should speak truth at all times. Our “yes”, should mean, “yes,” and our, “no,” should mean, “no.” Disciples of Jesus should be people whom others can trust. We should not have to say, “I swear.” Those who know us, should simply know what we say is good and right. We should be such people of integrity, that those around us know that we say what we mean and we mean what we say. The language we use, the words we use, as well as how we live our lives, should always be speak in such a way that those around us know that what we say can be trusted.
Jesus is getting to the heart of what it means to live, to act to be the people of God. Disciples of Jesus are people who treat those around them with love, respect and dignity at all times in all things. What Jesus is doing here is not elaborating on the commandments, nor is he making them stricter, but instead he is opening up the heart of the law, exposing the intent behind the simple rules God has laid down for living. Jesus is teaching us that following the ten commandments, living the way God wants us to live is not simply a set of commands about doing or not doing the “right” things. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not about living by a certain set standard. Being a Christian is not a checklist of how to live our lives. It is about loving the people around us, it is about acting and reacting in kind, loving, caring ways to each person in every situation. It is about how we treat; how we speak to and about; how we think about one another. Jesus disciples, Christians, exemplify the love God has us by living out that love in all we do, all we say, in each and every action and interaction we have with our fellow human beings each and every day.