“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” – Jesus: Matthew 5:21-24
As always, my Wednesday evening men’s group this week was a great encouragement to me. We went back to 100% Zoom, as the hybrid model was – quite literally – a pain in the neck!
Regardless, the sense of “being together” was excellent, and we continued our good discussion around Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. This week we looked at Matthew 5:21-30, a section the author of our study guide titles, “What’s wrong with private sins?”
The guys study ahead of time by answering a series questions in the workbook. But we don’t simply read out our responses, we let that preparation inform our thinking and our conversation. We tend to form new questions during the meeting and it is always interesting to see where we end up!
Then – for me at least – it all continues to percolate. So today I have found myself thinking about a couple of things I would not have even considered had we not met as a study group and listened to each other.
No Such thing as “private” sin:
First, I am convinced there is no such thing as a truly “private” sin. Why? Because anything that compromises my relationship with God necessarily impacts who I am, how I think, the way that I live, and how I relate to and with other people.
We were imagined, designed, created, and born into life for the purpose of community; to experience community with God and with one another. Nothing truly happens in isolation. My supposedly “private” sin always becomes part of that fundamental equation.
Jesus isn’t talking about all this in order to pile on the guilt or the pressure, Jesus is in the business of inviting us into freedom. But we must understand the powerful effect and repercussions of what gets in the way of our relationship with God, if we truly want to move in the direction of genuine freedom.
Lift each other up (all people!):
The second nugget from Wednesday was a simple statement from the discussion. We were talking about what makes us upset, angry, irritated and more, and one of the guys said he responds to one such individual in his workplace by, “lifting him up.”
Wow! We live in a world where knocking people down, putting them in their place, taking them down a peg or two, shutting them up etc., is the gold standard of dealing with those who rub us the wrong way. But no, this man’s go-to response instead imagines how to “lift them up.”
This is exactly who we are called to be as followers of the Living Way of Jesus! We are called to respond to hate, anger, criticism, opposition, irritation, annoyance, and so much more by lifting one another up.
Just as private sin has repercussions in our spiritual life and in the lives of those around us, do does our public mercy, grace, generosity, encouragement, light, peace, and love.
Jesus speaks life into our relationships today!
Jesus sat on the hillside in Galilee, and he spoke life into the lives of those listening to him. He also spoke life and grace into the lives of those who persecuted him, arrested him, and strung him up on a cross.
Jesus speaks truth and life and grace into our lives too, today. He speaks to me through scripture, through the men I learn with, and through the congregation of disciples at WFPC.
The idea is that Jesus will speak all these things into this world today, through all of us – as we make the moment-by-moment choice to live for Jesus, to follow his way, and live into our salvation.
In love, and because this world needs love so very much – DEREK