Jesus talks about some pretty heavy topics in the remainder of Matthew 5.
When Jesus started talking about murder, I have a feeling most members of his audience thought . . . “Whew! I’m innocent of this one.”
But unfortunately, for them and us, Jesus didn’t stop with just the act of murder. He also talked about anger and insulting language and grouped them in with the act of murder.
So Jesus starts off talking about murder—the final outcome. But then He went deeper–back to the anger that eventually resulted in the murder. And then He went even deeper–back to the insulting language that possibly ignited the entire situation.
It’s like He’s peeling back the layers of an onion until he finally gets to the heart of the matter.
And that’s what He wants to show us–the HEART of the matter.
I attended a conference at my church a couple of weeks ago and heard some excellent messages. During the first message, one statement that really grabbed my attention was that God is not focused on our BEHAVIOR. He’s focused on our position in Christ. Hang in there with me.
The speaker went on to say that in order to live the life we were created to live, we have to live it focused on the same thing . . . who we are in Christ–who He is and what He’s done for us and what He’s given us and where He’s positioned us. The speaker said that when our life’s focus is this truth–that we are a son or daughter of God–who loves us without measure no matter what–and when that kind of thinking permeates our thoughts, THEN our behavior will begin to change to match who we know we are.
So in these examples that Jesus shares in Matthew 5, I believe He’s saying: I’m not focused on your outward behavior.
Is murder wrong? Yes! Does God hate murder? Yes!
But I believe Jesus is saying that since it’s not just the FINAL OUTCOME that’s wrong, that’s not where the remedy is needed. The ‘wrong’ starts long before the murder takes place. It even starts before the anger begins.
It goes all the way back to how you talk to someone or talk about someone. The words you use to describe them. Possibly the insults you sling in response to THEIR bad behavior.
And your words are chosen by what you think about other people.
And what you think about yourself.
I think the audience had probably started squirming by now. Because even though they probably hadn’t literally murdered anyone, their insulting language (even if not spoken aloud) and the resulting anger had moved them a long way down the path.
Jesus went on to use the same layer-removal treatment on several other popular laws: adultery, divorce, oaths, retribution, and even the Old Testament adage to love your neighbors and hate your enemies.
In every situation, He dug down to the heart of the matter.
Because He’s not focused on the final outward expression of our thoughts and beliefs and attitudes. He’s focused on their origination.
And He knows that if we’ll stop focusing on trying to do certain things and not do certain things . . . and instead focus our thoughts on who He is, what He’s done for us, the fact that He’s given us everything we need to live the life He created us to live, and the fact that we are His child and He loves us unconditionally and without measure . . . the outward expressions of our lives (our behavior) will begin to line up with our belief system.
So what does your behavior say about what you believe? Does it line up with who God says you are? With what He’s done for you? With where He’s placed you in Christ?
If not, a shift in your focus may be just what’s needed.