Commentary by Walter Albritton


November 7, 2004


Christ Gives Us New Rules for Living


Matthew 5


Key Verse: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. – Matthew 5:17


Some people complain they do not understand the Bible. I think the complainers do not read the same Bible I read. Most of it is remarkably easy to grasp. The problem is that many of us are reluctant to accept what the Bible says as God’s rules for the living of our lives.

We want to amend the rules to accommodate our carnal nature. Believing that we are “enlightened” moderns, we assume, for example, that what Jesus said in the first century does not apply to us. Thus we blink at our Lord’s teaching about divorce and hope that God will forgive us for disagreeing with his Son. Surely what Jesus said does not have merit in 21st Century America:

“But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Sadly, the rate of divorce for church members is the same as that for non-church people. This means that even the good people in our society consider biblical teaching more of a goal than a rule for living. The concept of “incompatibility” has been stretched so thin that it can now mean simply that a couple no longer wants to live together.

The result is a growing disregard for the sanctity of marriage, and an alarming number of single-parent homes where children miss the essential nurture of a mother and a father. To say that America is paying a high price for ignoring the teaching of Jesus is an understatement.

The precepts of Jesus are, of course, hard commands. None of them can be obeyed without fighting the current of modern society. To live holy lives always requires an upstream effort. Yet God promises to provide us sufficient grace to live by his rules rather than yield to the culture.

Our culture invites us to think of lust as normal, not an evil thing to be avoided. Merchants use alluring, scantily clad women, to sell everything from hamburgers to automobiles. They encourage us to lust after things even as we lust after the opposite sex.

Movies and television shows thrive on themes that stir our lustful feelings. Our children grow up with the assumption that lust is normal and healthy. What they are taught in church one or two hours a week is no match for the lessons they are learning from watching the one-eyed monster for hundreds of hours. Yet even Christian parents seem reluctant to instruct their children that Jesus meant it when he said:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Few of Jesus’ commands are harder to practice than this one:

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Consider your own heart when you think of the feelings we have come to have for Islamic terrorists. Since the 9-11 attack upon our nation, do we not have a difficult time “loving” these enemies of our freedom? Most of us are prone to believe they should be destroyed. Again, we find ourselves blinking at what Jesus taught.

Perhaps it all comes down to this question: Do we really believe that the principles Jesus taught are God’s rules for living today?

If we do not, then we are dependant upon whatever amendment of those rules suits us, and where does that end? Surely the end of such thinking is confusion and chaos when what we need is for His “kingdom to come, and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

That reality is not likely to occur until God’s People believe that God expects to live by the new rules for living given us by His Son. Can we obey these rules perfectly? No, but we can try and give it our best effort.

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