Love and perfection.
We’ve had the short gospel. Now it’s the sermon on the mount, part 1 and Jesus speaks and speaks.
We’re in the middle of the Trump impeachment crisis as I write. He is in trouble for a phone call that even his most blindly loyal deputies knew straight away was a political disaster. In his way, he’s made it all about fealty to him. So his defence is that is was a “perfect” phone call, which he simply repeats and repeats to make it clear what it takes to stay in his bully club while more and more contrary facts come out.
We saw yesterday that the Jewish leaders couldn’t get past the word “repent”. In their view they don’t need it, because they are sons of Abraham. Perfect people. Living by the Torah, that mountain of humanly impossible rules that opens the Bible.
The sermon on the mount is an all out assault on that view. It’s also an all out assault on human pride, the biggest stumbling block to God.
First the Beatitudes. They are not so much a celebration of being humble, vulnerable and marginalised as of the perspective it gives you. It progresses from blessed are the meek to blessed are those who thirst for righteousness, make peace and are persecuted for righteousness.
When a blessed person discovers things are broken, they actively try to make them better.
It’s humility and honesty designed to stand out with a disproportionate impact: salt and light. I think of art, it is like salt and light. A little bit influences the whole zeitgeist. Ditto a little bit of salt and light, A.K.A: us, is Jesus’ plan to break human pride.
Then Jesus’rules. He takes some of the impossible Torah rules, which humanity has only ever honoured in the breech, and does two things. Shows how they connect to love, and makes them even more impossible.
Murder/anger, life partners, honesty and justice. To have a truly loving take on these things allows no wriggle room at all.
He ends with loving others, even enemies. God the father is perfect, that is our standard. Perfection.
It is so much more than the Jewish leaders think. It’s clear that the only way you can think you are perfect is by corrupting the word itself, chipping it down the way Donald Trump wants to, until it fits what you have done.
God’s love and mercy removes our sin from us as far as the East is from the West. God promises to see us as perfect, which lets us enjoy the rightness of this vision of a perfect world.
This is the kingdom we are working towards, the one that is near.
Where not only is there no murder, there is no anger.
Where people don’t need to swear on a stack of Bibles, because everyone is honest.
Where you don’t have to work out the logistics of divorce, because everyone stays faithful to their nearest and dearest, and are properly loved by them.
Where oppression and enemies are things of the past.
Its impossible and wonderful. Despite the contradictions of the world around us, we can embrace and delight in the rightness of God’s kingdom.