Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 3

We continue our consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to hate your enemy? (Matthew 5:43)

Psalm 139 says the Psalmist David hated the enemies of God with perfect hatred. But we have to keep that in context with the rest of the Old Testament. The Psalmist was intensely and passionately opposed to the wicked ways of man and he stood militantly for God’s ways. But look at how David viewed those who mistreated him.

Even David prayed for his enemies:

Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. But I, when they were sick– I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth. How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!
(Psalms 35:11-17)

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:17-18)

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
(Exodus 23:4-5)

If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.
(Proverbs 17:13)

“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him (I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse),
(Job 31:29-30)

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.
(Proverbs 24:17-18)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
(Proverbs 25:21-22; quoted in Romans 12:20-21)

You can see from the Old Testament passages, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to love his enemies, to pray for them, to do good for them and to bless them. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

During what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus said many times “You have heard that it was said…” and He followed it with “but I say unto you…” Was Jesus teaching new concepts and new morality?

The impression that is left when some talk about the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus was teaching an entirely new standard of morality that wasn’t part of the Law of Moses. That’s just not true. What Jesus did was correct how the Scribes and Pharisees had incorrectly interpreted and applied the Law because of the hardness of their hearts.

Here are some examples from the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate that Jesus was correcting the hypocritical interpretation of the Law:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:20)

In Matthew 6, when Jesus was talking about prayer, charity and fasting, He compared true righteousness to how the “hypocrites” (Scribes and Pharisees) were behaving (Matthew 6:2,5,16).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about lust, anger without a cause, keeping your word, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile and loving your enemy. Are those uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses?

Let’s look into the Old Testament and see.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to be angry without a cause as long as you didn’t kill that person?

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
(Matthew 5:21-22)

You can’t read far into the book of Genesis without seeing God correct someone about anger. Genesis 4 shows God calling out Cain about his anger toward his brother Abel. Cain’s anger was without cause, and God said he needed to “rule over it.”

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
(Psalms 37:8)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
(Proverbs 14:29)

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:9)

You can see that Jesus was not instituting a new ethic. This is the heart that God always wanted from His people.

More to come later..

Kindling Strife – The Fire Tetrahedron

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife (Proverbs 26:18-21).

I’ve been taught that fire needs three things: fuel, oxygen and heat. But I know a firefighter (Jason) who corrected me on this. It is actually a fire tetrahedron: along with fuel, oxygen and heat there is a fourth element called a chemical chain reaction. If you knock one of these out, you don’t have a fire.

A fight needs the same four things: inflammatory words, people to say and repeat them, folks to react to them, and hot tempers. It doesn’t take much to start a fire, and it is pretty easy for people to fight.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell (James 3:5-6).

This is what brings down nations, splits churches, destroys the workplace environment and causes the home to fall apart.

Here are some passages about the heat, fuel, oxygen and chemical chain reactions that cause fires in our relationships. Let’s meditate upon this today, men.

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body (Proverbs 18:8; 26:22).

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler (Proverbs 20:19).

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly (Proverbs 15:1-2).

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression (Proverbs 29:22).

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:12-13).