Taking Our Faith Seriously
Text: Matthew 5 : 21 - 48
What does it mean to be called “children of God”? How seriously do we take this concept of being “sons of God”? We may say, in summary, that the two sets of teachings that Jesus gave at this point of time, arose from this doctrine of being called the “sons of God”.
THE BEATITUDES IN REFLECTION
Take time to ponder the Beatitudes again. The virtues Jesus acclaimed best displayed the characteristics of people called “sons of God”. If all who claim that they believe in God the Father were also to practise the Beatitudes, they would indeed have been rightly honoured as “The sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
THE CONTROVERSIAL TEXTS RESOLVED
There is no end to giving opinions to disputed texts. Anybody can come up with a different opinion concerning the interpretation of the Mosaic law. However, not just anyone could step up and say that they are consciously and humbly practising the spirit of the law of Moses as the children of God.
If anyone read the laws of God as His obedient children, then many of the controversial interpretations would be negated effectively. This was the essentially the challenge that Jesus issued to His disciples. If they really wanted to follow Him as His disciples, then they must understand His rationale for teaching as He did! One must take the doctrine of being God’s children most seriously.
A SECULAR APPROACH REJECTED
Jesus looked at the other side of the coin as He closed this series of teachings.
“For if you love those who love you, what
reward have you? Do not even the tax
collectors do the same? And if you greet
your brethren only, what do you do more
than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? ”
It was common practise among members of some sects to define “neighbours” as those who belong to their brotherhood. They would only give friendly greetings to those who belonged to their fraternity. In effect, this made the Jews living in ancient Palestine a very divided community.
There were the self-righteous Pharisees who kept away from others. They despised others, especially the “tax collectors”. There were the tax collectors shunned by many, who formed their own cliques for self-preservation.
Jesus argued against this secular approach to the practise of true faith! Where was the reward or “blessing” in this secular approach to faith and life? How would those who claim that they are children of God be distinguished if they were really no better than tax collectors?
THE MOST ASTONSHING CHALLENGE YET!
As Jesus concluded His teachings on the controversial topics that were prevailing in His time, He made the most astonishing statement.
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as
Your Father in heaven is perfect.”
This statement is best read with the previous declaration,
“That you may be sons of your Father in heaven…”
How should we understand this statement of Jesus? Let us try and examine the text carefully.
1. The lexical meaning of the word “perfect”
The word “perfect” in the Greek text suggests the idea of “completeness”. Of course God is Perfect. He is the sum of all perfection!
2. The challenge to be “perfect”
Let us try and break down this challenge into several portions of thought:-
a) The challenge to strive for the ideal
This is the first thought that we must consider. Of course we would never be able to reach the ideal. However, we must not be wanting for lack of effort.
b) One area at a time
God is perfect in every sense of the word. On the other hand we are grossly imperfect because of our sinfulness. The challenge therefore is to work at improving our lives, one area at a time. We will never reach sinless perfection. However, we can work at becoming more and more in His image!
c) The concept of “holiness” in particular
One of the most oft-repeated commands in the Mosaic Law was the one that called Israel to be holy.
“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
The challenge of Jesus is along this vein of thought. Just as God is holy, so He expects His children to be holy as well. In similar fashion, Jesus argued that just as God is perfect, so all His children must strive to be like Him, as best they can!