Every week since Epiphany, I have been struck with the lectionary readings that have, in my mind, continued to reveal to us more of who God is. They have painted a picture of what it means to align our lives with God’s — to be a disciple, a follower, a student of the life of Christ.
The outcome of following Jesus isn’t just to acquire more information about God. The goal of following, or better yet, being in the process of following, is to know God more. As our relationship with God deepens, we become more like the One we follow. Jesus teaches us what it means to engage in real relationships. As followers, we learn by bearing witness to His humanness… God enfleshed.
There has been quite a bit of theological discussion recently about what it means to be “truly human” or “fully human.” It’s an important discussion. There are numerous examples of IN-HUMANITY that we can point to throughout history, and sadly, still to this day!
That’s why this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is so important, albeit difficult.
Jesus is helping us rediscover our humanity.
In the reading for today, Jesus sets the laws about murder, adultery, divorce and oath making in the context of human relationship. He shows us that the CORE of the Law is how we treat one another as humans who are interconnected.
Our discipleship is tied to an ethic of community life. It’s never individualistic.
It is practiced and honed as we pursue living in right relationships with others. We are connected. What we do, the decisions we make, the lives we live always have an impact on others. Always.
The fulfillment of the law is found in our love for one another — not in some shallow way, but in a deep and difficult yet transformative and life giving way. This shouldn’t surprise us. The theme runs throughout scripture — Love God, love your neighbor and love your enemy.
After studying this passage, here’s what I have come to: following the letter of the law is way easier than what Jesus is proposing here. As a good friend of mine, a single woman, said earlier this week in discussing this passage: “I’m most likely not going to be committing murder. And as a single woman, I’m probably not going to commit adultery or divorce either.” That resonates with me. Check. Check. Check. Following the law — easy. And to be honest, you can “follow” the law without having to love.
When Jesus says he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law, he is getting underneath the easy check-off list. He is naming the essence of what the law was intended to do — to empower us with the kind of transformative love that helps us to live together in relationship. This is the only kind of love that can go as far as embracing the enemy. To fulfill the law is to live as a truly human community — a community centered around loving trust, not around the abuse of power or the objectification of others.
To be clear, this love isn’t just another law… It’s not another demand for perfection. Quite the opposite. It involves a healthy dose of failure and forgiveness from everyone involved. They are also key elements in our journey to becoming a force in creating true human community.
I was in a large community meeting recently. It was a contentious gathering. There were people from all over the political and power spectrum. It was going to be a difficult night of “conversation” with others.
In the opening remarks, one of the leaders of the meeting thanked the faith community for coming out. They described what they thought our role was in public discourse: to represent a moral and compassionate voice. They knew something about who we are — or at least who we are supposed to be.
His words stood as a hopeful reminder to all of us. We are not called to perfection. We are called to be the kind of human that engages in relationship and community, failing and forgiving and loving and learning compassion along the way. May God bless all of our journeys!