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Trinity 6 – Matthew 5:20-26

by pastorjuhl ~ July 16th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

When a craftsman makes something unique and wants the product to be a limited edition, he breaks the mold. That way no one will make another product just like the one he made. When a person has a unique personality unlike anyone you’ve ever met, it is said that “they broke the mold” after that person was born. There will never be another one just like that one.

“They” broke the mold when you and I were born. There will never be another person just like you or me. There is something we have in common. Our righteousness does not exceed the scribes and Pharisees. Then again, the scribes and Pharisees’ righteousness neither meets nor exceeds the righteousness of God. Jesus’ stinging words from the Sermon on the Mount proclaims that we broke the mold of pure and holy righteousness God gave us. However, Jesus Christ puts the mold back together again when He becomes our righteousness Who dies and rises from the dead to make broken sinners whole again by grace through faith in God’s only Son.

Jesus tells the Twelve in Mark chapter four: Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. Every week we have the Good News of Jesus poured into our lap to the point where our lap aprons run over with His lavish grace. Our heavenly Father measures us worthy of His undeserved love through faith in Christ. Nevertheless, we measure others according to our standards of righteousness rather than God’s standards of righteousness. Instead of love and patience, we hate our neighbor and will not suffer long with them. We set the bar high. They must earn our love and respect. Should they do something to cross me, my response will be swift and severe.

When our neighbor sins against us, our response is certainly swift and severe. The person may have been our friend. A friendship can end as fast as it begins. A close friendship terminated hurts more than the two people involved do. It hurts those around them. Time spent with friends becomes time spent in a different way. What was once comforting moments in their presence now becomes awkward moments wishing we were someplace else. We could take a passive aggressive tack and show how much hurt has been inflicted by ignoring them. We’ll frequent the same places they do, but we’ll let them know in a not so subtle way that their presence disgusts me.

Most of us have acted that way toward someone that we once called, or still call, a friend. When they don’t measure up to our standard, we drop them like a bad habit. There will be other friends. Let them twist in the wind and consider how much they have hurt me. Is this how God deals with you and me when it comes to our falling short of His perfect standard of fellowship? God should put us out of His sight forever. He has every right to destroy us. He has every right to wipe out all civilization and start all over again. He once thought of doing just that thing. Moses caught our heavenly Father in His own trap. Moses reminded God of the rainbow sealing His promise to Noah that never again will God drown the world in a flood.

Why do we wish to harbor anger and not to forgive our neighbor, while the Lord God forgives us so much? There is no comparison between how much we provoke God and how much our neighbor may offend us (Gerhard). Repent. Let your anger and hostility against those you despise evaporate. Listen again to Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel: If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

This is a hard saying; who can believe it? The last thing we sinful creatures want to do is confess our wrong to our neighbor, even if we were not the one in the wrong. It’s much better to drop the whole thing and move on. Jesus would not have us walk that way. Jesus would have you and me walk in the way of repentance and forgiveness. It begins with God and extends to our neighbor.

Let’s bring Jesus’ words close to home. If you have a disagreement with someone in this congregation, the Christ-like thing to do is to drop everything and go talk to your brother in Christ about the disagreement. It may not be your fault, but at least you are making an effort to be reconciled to your brother. Jesus says to be reconciled to your brother before you go to the altar. This means reconciliation should happen before you receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Saint Paul writes that we should not let the sun go down on our anger. Jesus says agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him. Festering anger is like a festering boil or, worse, like detected cancer that goes untreated. Once anger or cancer is there, it grows. Soon anger or cancer will take over the whole body. So it is with anger between two brethren in Christ. Rather than letting anger take over your life, resolve your differences and go together in peace to the altar to receive the gift of forgiveness and life.

If God didn’t care about our eternal welfare, He would have never sent His only-begotten Son into the flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. However, our heavenly Father loves everything He made…especially mankind. God repairs the broken mold by sending Jesus as a man, born under the Law to fulfill the Law on our behalf. The summary of the Ten Commandments is LOVE. Where you and I fall short of love toward God and toward each other, Jesus does not fall short. His love extends from the manger through the Jordan to the Garden and the cross, through the tomb and back to heaven again. Everything Jesus says and does is love for you and me. This is possible because of Holy Baptism. Saint Paul says in today’s Epistle do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life…. Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Christian living in the forgiveness of sins won for him by Jesus’ blood and righteousness does not allow anger and hatred for another brother in Christ take over his body. The next verse after today’s Epistle ends says therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. By God’s amazing grace given us through faith in Jesus Christ, we are alive from the dead. The Living Word quickens our dead hearts, making us living beings saved from the lake of fire to the joy of heaven forever. As we live in God’s amazing grace, we live not for ourselves but for God. Paul says in Colossians chapter three, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Without Jesus Christ dwelling in us through His Word in preaching, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, living the way we should as forgiven children of God is impossible. No wonder popular culture pictures Christians as hypocritical, self-righteous fools. We quote Scripture and sing hymns one minute then hate our neighbor and live like a heathen the next. Thanks be to God that Jesus’ blood and righteousness exceeds the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. No longer do we live in fear and loathing. We live for Jesus Christ, in His love and peace. As God loves us in Jesus, so we love our neighbor as if our neighbor was the Lord Christ Himself. The broken mold of our relationship with God and man is unbroken because of Jesus. To Him be the glory now and forever!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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