We have hit the home stretch of our Winter Bible Study. We have one more section of Scripture to cover in the next few weeks and I think it will change the way we look at things. Have you ever noticed that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? That is, until you go over there and realize that it is artificial turf! Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Changes are a part of life. The only certainty in life is that things will change. We have seen changes take on a life of their own recently. Many of us want things to change back to the way things were. Some of the most challenging changes are relationship changes. They can be difficult to handle.
Sometimes changes are peaceful and sometimes there are hard feelings. How is it that something that seemed so right at one point now is all wrong? I think it has to do with human nature and our unwillingness to see things from a different perspective.
Have you ever noticed that some sports teams are surrounded by change and others stay pretty consistent? In my observation the teams that are the most stable tend to perform the best. The ones that are always changing seem to be in turmoil, they do not have a foundation to hold them. You can look across the sporting world and you can see teams that are successful when the leadership is consistent. When the leader is constantly changing their stability and success are lacking.
This is confirmed in Scripture, the house built on the rock was able to withstand the storm. Those who build their life with Christ as the foundation have stability and purpose. Jesus helps us understand that we are too quick to change dance partners in life. Whether it be in marriage, friendships or even acquaintances we switch instead of putting forth the effort to build.
For the next four weeks we are going to delve into this last section of The Sermon on the Mount. It is a pretty sweeping realignment of the way we tend to see things so stick with me and we will tackle it together.
Matthew 5:31-6:4, “It has been said, `Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your `Yes’ be `Yes,’ and your ‘No be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
“You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
“Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Looking closely at this passage we can see that it covers many of the ways we relate to others; the way we need to deal with the relationships of life. It starts with the most significant one and goes from there. Let’s spend some time looking at each of them.
A few weeks ago we talked about marriage and the significance of that relationship in God’s eyes. In society today the marriage relationship falls somewhat short of God’s standard. Does it mean one or both just do not want make the effort?
God has a standard, but we don’t always follow that. When we choose differently than what God directs, we need to deal with that. This is where the water gets cloudy, do I ask for permission or do I ask for forgiveness? God doesn’t give us permission to follow our own desires. He does provide a way for us to deal with our shortcomings, He provided forgiveness.
Dissolving a marriage is not an unforgivable sin, but like in all things, we should make every effort to follow God. Although forgiveness is available the consequences don’t, especially if there are children involved, go away. As with all our sins, we continue to deal with the consequences for the rest of our earthly life.
In view of what we see around us, how can we deal with such a high standard? First, remember that God’s standard is the highest and the best. If we can live our lives by God’s standard then we will live the best life possible. Knowing that, we shouldn’t enter into the marriage relationship lightly, Jesus explains there is reason to dissolve a marriage; when intimacy is violated; when one or both violate the intimate trust that marriage is built on, unfaithfulness.
Life being what it is we all make choices that do not please God, choices that He would rather we didn’t make, choices that are not in line with His plan for us. We make choices that lead us away from Him.
With those choices come the consequences of living our lives differently than God would want. We cannot go back and remove them, but we can move forward from here and seek God’s direction in the future. The process of getting things back in line is available from God in the form of forgiveness. There is a process that restores our relationship with God.
We first have to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for them. Acknowledge they were our choices not someone else’s. We made them, no one twisted our arm and even if they did, we could have chosen differently.
We then have to go before God and seek His forgiveness. He promises to forgive us giving us the freedom so we can move forward in our lives, recommitted to following His direction. We can because of the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins on the cross. We have hope even when we make the wrong choice. That hope is Jesus Christ.
As we start down this road of getting the relationships in our life in line with God; I think a good place to start is at the foot of the cross. Take some time this week and sit there. Open your heart and ask for His forgiveness. Acknowledge what Christ did for us, receive it and start life anew, restored and useful to God.
Matthew 6: 7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.