Thursday, September 20, 2007

Transforming Initiatives

I've been taking a class in Christian Ethics over the summer that has really been opening me up to the Biblical view of how we should live out our Christian lives. My professor, Dr. Glen Stassen has suggested that the Sermon on the Mount ought to be the central focus of Christian ethics. Here Jesus talks about the Old Testament law and expands on each law. For example:
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:21-23)

But while we often think that Jesus is merely raising the bar for us to make holiness a more difficult standard to obtain, we forget that, if that is what he is doing, he would simply be creating a more rigid legalism. But in fact that is not what Jesus does. Jesus does not say, "Do not get angry with your brother." It is not a command. But Jesus does command that, if our brother has something against us then we ought to go be reconciled. Jesus does not offer us legalism; he offers a solution.

Think that this is only the pattern here? Jesus does the same for nearly all of the other teachings. Jesus speaks in hyberbole regarding to lust saying, "If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out" (v. 29). Again, Jesus is providing a solution: lust leads to adultery so get yourself away from the situation that causes you to lust.

The real point is that Jesus offers us solutions, or as my professor calls them: transforming initiatives. These are ways to get ourselves out of the cycle of sin that we find ourselves within. It offers much more than a higher standard. It offers us a way to find freedom from sin. That, not legalism, is Jesus' way.

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