I love rain in the desert. I like the way it looks as it brings cleansing and clarity to all the colors, while surrounding them with a soft, grey hue. I like the way it smells as it brings the soothing fragrance of creosote into our dusty desert air. And I like how it stirs up the giddy in all of us sun-scorched Phoenician folk.
I know not everyone feels the same way. For those prone to melancholy, rain can feel like a wet blanket. For those whose roof is prone to leak (like mine was last summer), rain can be a frustration. And for those in areas prone to flooding, if there is enough rain, it can be a threat to their safety and security.
In the sanctuary last Sunday the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount rained down on us. As those words fell on us, it was interesting for me to notice how some heard the words like a refreshing rain and others heard His words as a threat. In this email I hope to offer some helpful thoughts to the intensity and challenge found in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. We read the portion found in Matthew 7:17-47
In this passage Jesus is teaching His apprentices the standards of the kingdom of God. We get excited about this until we read the actual standards. If you get angry with your brother, you are guilty of murder. If you look lustfully at someone, you are guilty of adultery. If you divorce someone, without proof of sexual immorality, or remarry someone who is divorced, you are guilty of adultery. Yikes! And—wow! Intense and challenging! Those words hit all of us, and can leave us feeling a bit undone, unworthy, and uncertain of what to do next.
I think we need to see this passage with the perspective that sin brings about a debt. Jesus is teaching us that each time we get angry, get lustful, get divorced, get remarried—we incur a debt.
In God’s economy, not only do our actions have consequences, but our thoughts do as well. When those actions or thoughts are sinful, we incur a debt with God, a debt with our fellow man, and a debt with our own souls. This does not mean that Jesus wants people to walk around with a heavy weight of debt and guilt on our backs. He teaches us this so we will realize the heavy weight we are carrying is a guilt debt which can be removed by forgiveness. He wants us to acknowledge our wrongs so we can make them right. In the kingdom of heaven the righteous right the wrongs. Living in Innocence before God is living debt-free.
So, where we have been angry and incurred a debt of guilt, we should stop what we are doing and go make it right: ask God for forgiveness, ask the person for forgiveness at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way, and forgive ourselves, releasing the power of shame and guilt on our own souls. Where we have been lustful or immoral, we should stop and make it right in the same way. And when we have broken a covenant of marriage, we should get clear and free before God, fellow man, and ourselves before we move into a new covenant.
God wants us free to flourish. Jesus did not teach these hard truths to make people feel beat up or cast out. He taught these truths because they are the road map to freedom and flourishing. Being right with God is what your soul is, and always has been, longing for. Being right with God is what Jesus died on a cross to make possible for you. Being right with God requires us to be honest and to right the wrongs that we have done. Being right with God brings the refreshing rain of His Spirit onto our sin-scorched souls.