Often we have ignored or distorted God’s laws for so long that we only come to know them as false surrogates for what God intended. “Love your neighbor,” “Welcome strangers,” and “Do justice” are examples of God’s commands that too few churches enact. In many churches, if some members insist on outreach to neighbors, extending hospitality to the homeless, or confronting disparities in the justice system, these members are denounced as disruptors and fanatics. Their efforts to fulfill God’s commands are judged to be efforts to destroy the calm, like-mindedness, and security that have become sacred idols.
How determined are you to fulfill today’s scripture as you read and understand it as instruction related to what follows in the Sermon on the Mount? (See Matthew 5–7.) Today’s passage says that how we honor or fail to honor what God has commanded is a matter of spiritual vitality or spiritual death. Fulfilling God’s laws is not ultimately for the sake of the laws but for our own sake and for the world. What God wants fulfilled is to be fulfilled in us and is fulfilled for us.
Living the faith is the way to fulfill the law and experience God’s joy for us. Knowing this should embolden our discipleship even when our motives are misunderstood and the likelihood of transformation seems dismal. We were created to be salt and light. Settling for anything less is unworthy of us.
Release us, O God, from whatever hinders our enthusiasm to fulfill the guidance you have given us. Help us to rest in the assurance that comes from yielding our anxieties and fears to you. Enliven us by the certainty that your loving presence is constant and your joy is even beyond our imagination. Amen.
According to another counterfeit gospel, our inward convictions about God are enough, so our actions do not really matter. Isaiah chastises his audience for being half-hearted in their religious observance. They ignore the plight of the oppressed and the poor, and by doing so they betray that they do not grasp the heart of God. The psalmist argues that the true faithful are steadfast and generous, and as a result God establishes them and their cause. The understanding of God’s view of the world, Paul writes, must be spiritually discerned, for it opposes the normal thinking of the world. In Matthew, Jesus tells his followers that living faith is shown by bringing flavor and light to the world. Otherwise, our faith is useless to those around us.
Read Isaiah 58:1-12. What can you do to be a foundation of many generations, the repairer of the breach for your community?
Read Psalm 112:1-10. How have you seen God’s blessings abound from your faithfulness? How do you remain faithful when God’s blessings seem absent?
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-16. Consider the many ways wisdom comes. How do you seek to understand God’s wisdom?
Read Matthew 5:13-20. When does your faith community resist the call to be the salt of the earth and light of the world? How can you transform yourself or those around you to fulfill God’s commandments?
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