The Western World’s constitutions have equally drawn their inspiration from this set of Christ’s teachings, which we will correctly refer to as the commands of Christ. These commands have become so embedded in our society that they are now mere metaphors for “doing your best”: Do unto others…Turn the other cheek…Go the extra mile…are all partial quotes from the commands that Christ gave.
Today the word “Christian” is mistakenly applied to almost anything, including buildings, businesses, certain ethnic races, a set of moral guidelines, and even a type of music. Yet this use of the word reflects little that is truly Christian and lacks any reference to what its founder taught.
Currently it is popular amongst some Christian writers to identify with unbelievers who say they, “like Jesus but not the Church.” It is true that modern Christianity does not portray the Church that Jesus formed and that Christians hypocritically profess to follow their founder but come nowhere close. They try to present a picture of those unbelievers who would flock to Jesus or the Church if only Christianity were done properly. What they fail to realize is that in Jesus’ day He was attacked not only by the organized religious fundamentalists but also by others who initially claimed to be followers, i.e. the fringe element who advocated peace and love but who really only wanted the freedom to live loose undisciplined lives. The true message of the cross not only provokes the religious right and left, but also those unbelievers who carry placards saying “Who would Jesus bomb?” or “Who would Jesus hate?” The crowd who stood outside Pilate’s court on that dreadful day all screamed “Crucify Him.” The truth Jesus preached does not appeal to the world’s demands, regardless of whether they come from religionist administering the Mosaic Law, or placard carrying pagans desiring peace and love through lawlessness.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Matthew 27:22-23
Who were those who really followed Jesus? Who were those who really kept the commands of Jesus when He said “If you love me keep my commands”? If it wasn’t those on either side of the aisle, the religionist or the peace mongers, then who was it He called His true followers? If it isn’t the conservative flamboyant institutional organization called “Catholicism” and “Protestantism,” or the liberal pretentious institutional organization called “Emergent,” or the pseudo religions of the east, or the New Age, or the “free love” placard carrying deviants of GLBT; then who was it He called His true followers? If the aforementioned were those who cried out “Crucify Him” then who were His followers then, and who are they today?
Jesus’ followers are those who have been persecuted from age to age by those who profess to “love,” and follow in the footsteps of those who also cried out in Pilate’s court, “We have a law, and by this law He should be crucified.” His followers are those who the institutional “Church” stands against, religionist of all strips stand against, and that the free-for-all anarchists stand against. His followers are those who know His commandments, contained in what James calls the “perfect law” and the “Royal Law,” and do them.
In Matthew’s Gospel we read,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20
The confusion comes when we read:
“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” Deuteronomy 4:2
“See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32.
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs 30:5,6
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” Revelation 22:18,19
Did Jesus add to or take from the commands of God?
And God told Moses:
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” Deuteronomy 18:18
Of all the attributes of Moses fulfilled in Jesus the one attribute of being a law giver seems to be always overlooked by the commentators. It was forcefully stated in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that to add to or to take from the words of Scripture would yield a curse. Yet, in Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount He both adds to and takes from the Old Law and states the curse that follows on those who do this. Whether or not we believe that Jesus abrogated the Law, added to the Law, or raised it to a new standard, it is undeniable that Jesus did to the Law that which was held to be a curse if done by anyone else; He changed it.
In the minds of un-enlightened men there stands a great discombobulation and misunderstanding of what is going on here in these verses. How can Jesus say what He says and still claim that not one jot or tittle of the Law shall pass away…and that anyone who sets aside one of the least commands and teaches others…will be called the least? Jesus says, “You have heard it said (i.e. Moses’ Law)…But I say (the confusion).” It appears at first that He is once for all setting the Law of Moses in concrete and establishing it as the “Law” for everyone for all ages to come, then pulls the carpet out from under it and smashes it to the ground.
Jesus is that Prophet that was to come, who “like unto thee, (i.e. Moses)” will be a Law Giver. Jesus is the new Law Giver and with the words, “But I say unto you” establishes the New Law, the Perfect Law of Liberty, the Royal Law, the Law not given by Moses but by the Son of God, which negates all that Moses instituted and sets free everyone who believe, and it is those Laws which He proceeds to layout in His sermon. It is this new law that He warns, “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” It is also this new law that the indignation of the world, both religious and non-religious, is directed toward.
If Jesus kept the Mosaic Law perfectly, as all religious teachers teach, then why was He condemned by the words of the religious perfectionist of His day: “We have a law, and according to that law he must die. . . .” John 19:7. In reality Jesus did not keep the Mosaic Law, He broke it; no He pulverized it. Jesus understood what He was doing and intentionally broke the Law. He routinely healed on the Sabbath, worked on the Sabbath, ate with unwashed hands, and harvested grain on the Sabbath. Moses’ Law was specific in its rule of obedience, and that obedience was the harsh bondage that held people in sin; that was its purpose, to reveal sin. The Law, being the school master to reveal the sin that lives in our heart, is a cruel master of which there is no release short of death (read Romans chapter 7). Jesus, the prophet “like unto” Moses came to deliver a new law; the Law of Love.
The law of love appears on the surface to be just what we all want, but in essence it is that thing which brings condemnation from the world, both religious and otherwise. Jesus’ display of this new law earned Him the cross. His disciples showed the results of this kind of love by their own painful deaths. Believers all through the times of true Christian living have been burnt, stabbed, disemboweled, hanged, had their tongues cut out, blinded, fed to wild animals, herded off high cliffs, buried alive, drowned, their children taken, their property taken, driven from their land, drawn-and-quartered, hoisted on sharp spikes, or simply castigated, excommunicated, ignored, rejected, shunned, or fired from jobs.
What kind of love is this that results in hatred, for those who return good for evil, who share their resources, who give not expecting anything in return, who refuse to judge the guilty, who go the extra mile when unjust demands are put on them, whose good word is their only contract, who take a meal or give money to the beggar at the intersection, or refuse to kill a fellow human being by joining with the armed forces or police force? What kind of Love is this whose unrestricted display of true love ends on a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem, and whose founder says “follow Me”?
What kind of love is it that commercial Christianity rejects?
What kind of love is it that all the other religions reject?
And, what kind of love is it that the non-religious reject?
All of these condemned the love Christ brought to earth, but this is that love which forms the foundation of the Kingdom of God that Jesus introduced to mankind, and petitions us to enter.
The next article will investigate the kinds of love the world desires and contrast that with Jesus’ offers of the new Royal Law of Love.
Love and Peace,