Thursday, March 31, 2011


So, what are we to understand about Jesus’ attitude toward the divorced, remarried and those guilty of adultery? His encounters with the guilty help us understand his attitude toward us. The Samaritan woman at the well is a great example of Jesus’ message to lawbreakers.

We find the Lord in a mutually vulnerable situation. He is a Jewish man alone in a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Cultural taboos would suggest that this was inappropriate on many levels. Still, Jesus is not bound by what the neighbors think. 

The love of God reaches far beyond the protective limitations of religious people. To the pure all things are pure. Jesus was not about to take advantage of this woman.

The ensuing conversation is loaded with new thought about God’s Kingdom. Jesus is offering her something that will satisfy her at the deepest level, like a drink that has a permanent quenching effect. The offer of God’s life is appealing, but who can be good enough to earn it? Could this woman be respectable enough to merit God’s blessing?

John 4:
 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
   Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

We see here a woman who had been betrayed and polluted by many. It’s not a question of whether she is the victim or the manipulator, but a recognition of the brokenness. Could it be that every new relationship came with a weak promise of lasting commitment and security? Men were not her answer.

Is the Law of God about adultery applicable to this woman? Indeed it is. The Law condemns her actions. But Jesus does not sound accusatory or judgmental here. Instead he invites her to bring his message of hope to the damaged remnants of relationship. Multiple failed marriages and adultery were not standing in God’s way of bringing lasting satisfaction to her. The impact of this woman’s life would be incredible.

John 4:
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Having been known as the town slut, she now becomes God’s messenger of hope. God took the irreparable damage of her life and gave her a contagious satisfaction. The story never addresses what became of the man she was living with at the time, but we can know with certainty that her newfound belief in Jesus would have a rippling effect that would stay with her for life. The central issue was not how bad she had been, but how loved she would be. God would love her with an everlasting love that would purify her.

It made so much sense that many of her neighbors would want it, too. The question is not how many divorces or adulterous affairs have you had, but are you open to being loved by the King of Heaven. Love covers a multitude of sins and purifies the polluted.

Do you struggle with guilt and condemnation from past failures? Christ’s love and grace is ready to heal you.

Jesus offers great hope of satisfaction to the castaways of broken marriage. You will find the fidelity and contentment you long for. It will come in receiving God’s Kingdom into your life—in receiving the King of Heaven as your satisfaction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Jesus challenged interpretations of the Law that victimized the vulnerable. The rich and powerful still use the Law to their benefit at the expense of the defenseless. Consider his take on divorce.

Jewish law said that a man could have more than one wife, but sharing a woman was considered adultery. Women did not have the same rights as men. A woman without a man or supportive family was without aid. Jewish men were required to give a woman a certificate of divorce when they no longer wished to have them as a wife. A man could think he was perfectly legal and therefore innocent as long as he followed correct procedure in divorcing a wife.

Jesus addresses the inequity and self-righteousness of their accepted standard.

Matthew 5:
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

On the heels of saying lustful thoughts in your heart are equal to adultery, Jesus now proceeds to say that divorcing someone is one more way of demonstrating unfaithfulness. It’s not just lust that leads to adultery; divorce papers set people up to be further torn apart and polluted. Jesus presumes that the divorced person will marry another and that to do so is messy.

In the etymology of the word, Adultery means, "to pollute." [i] When you have been with a partner and betray their love by sleeping with another, there is always a pollution that happens. Physically, the pollution sometimes takes the form of sexually transmitted diseases. Jesus is addressing what happens inside a person and this is where the greatest pollution takes place. Betrayal, deception and rejection mess with a person’s mind, will and emotions. It darkens one’s spirit.

Take a sheet of red construction paper and glue it face to face with a sheet of black. Let the glue dry until the two sheets are joined as one. You can still see the two, but they are joined as one. The new page is stronger.

Now, try to pull the two apart and what happens? There is no clean way to separate the two. Both end up damaged. Bits of one are torn away and stuck to the other. Divorcing a person is much like that. This desecration and pollution is always damaging and so God asks His people to have a different law in their hearts.

What about you? Have you felt the damage that comes from divorce or adultery? If Jesus is pointing out that damage reaches further than we presume, what is the answer? How are we to respond to our own hypocrisy and guilt as lawbreakers? The Law of God only intensifies an awareness that we are messed up.

[i] American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 4th ed. 2004, p. 24

Saturday, March 26, 2011


One of the early Baptist churches in America, still in existence today, is the Pennepack Church near Philadelphia. Elias Keach, who founded the church in 1688, was the son of a prominent English Baptist minister, Benjamin Keach. When Elias came to America in 1687, he was not a Christian and had a reputation for being wild. For whatever reason, he decided to fake being a preacher like his father. Dressing up as a minister, he accepted an invitation to preach at a Baptist meeting. But playing church backfired, or more correctly, the power of the gospel changed the game plan. Keach was converted hearing his own sermon! Overwhelmed by the seriousness of sin in faking the sermon, he stopped preaching and began to tremble. The congregation thought he had become sick, but he admitted his hypocrisy and asked for the church's forgiveness.[i]

Kudos to Mister Keach! It takes brave honesty to admit to hidden lies and come clean. This is what Jesus was gunning for in his crowd of listeners. Who among the synagogue-goers would admit to their bare minimum observance of God’s Law? Most people thought they were doing reasonably well if they conformed to the religious norms. You never so look good as when you measure yourself by the accepted standard of your peers.

Apparently Jesus had a problem with people who thought they could do no wrong. Have you met them? They always do and say the right things that are expected of good people. They appear genuinely concerned about pleasing God. They compare themselves to the people they believe are ‘truly bad’ and point out the error of the less, morally astute. They often have pet peeves with other groups, cultures or religions that will certainly destroy the world and all that is godly. They can tell you why public education, homosexuals, humanists and Muslims are rushing us to the brink of destruction.

The gospel writers tell us that Jesus challenged God-fearing people with the threat that they would not see God’s Kingdom without having a righteousness that exceeds their strictest teachers. Then as now, religious people like us look for comfort in being good citizens who obey God’s Law. Jesus tells us differently. Your self-esteem about being a good person is a cheap mask covering your true face.

Rage and discrediting others in our private thoughts are symptoms of a murderous heart finding its way into hell. Sexual fantasies about people other than your spouse reveal the true polluted state of an adulterous heart. Jesus has much more to say about our moral posturing; and it’s not pretty.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


(2005 - Dad playing the harmonica at his retirement service in Elora-Fergus).

For my formative years, I had one pastor. He also happened to be my dad. After he retired at 67, he resumed pastoring again after a short break.

Some of his recent sermons are online at

Check it out.  Like father, like son?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


"I simply urge that the Cross be raised again at the centre of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church.

I am recovering the claim that:

Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap;

at a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his title in Hebrew, and in Latin and in Greek...

at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble.

Because that is where churchmen should be and what churchmen should be about."

George MacLeod

Friday, March 18, 2011


It was a very serious matter when Jesus was questioned about the application of God’s Law to a relationship based on adultery.

John 8:
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
   But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
   9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
   11 “No one, sir,” she said.
   “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

It is easy for us to hear this story and gain an exaggerated view of the characters involved. Surely, the religious crowd was comprised of intolerable fanatics. Certainly this woman must have been characterized by loose-living and low standards.

But, that might also be our spin and quick judgment on the kind of people that get into these situations. What if it were you judging the woman or if you were caught up in sin and publicly exposed? What sort of person falls into this sin and what sort of person is quick to judge? Maybe there is no difference and we all are guilty of both sinning and judging. We have been the Law enforcer and we have been the guilty offender.

Think about the implications of Law and mercy in this story.

1. Equal application, not just to those who were caught.

  • The Law was just as severe with the sinful accuser as it was with the sinfully accused.
  • Jesus saw through their spiritual bullying and the absentee partner who was not called into question.

2. He found a way to bring mercy into the life of the offender.

  • Make no mistake about it-- she was guilty.  But accusation was not bringing her restoration or freedom.  It was overwhelming her and intensifying her shame.  
  • Her greatest need at this moment of crisis was mercy.

3. The guilty offender needed an opportunity to find release from shame.

  • Accusation theology leaves no room for release from shame and guilt. Once guilty, always shamed and persecuted.
  • They were not about to give her a way out or through her problem.

4.     He involved the offender in restoration to society by asking her to see the acceptance and     release He offered. 

  • She was given a fresh hope of growing into a new reputation.
  • Many times we want offenders to suffer consequences without offering a hope for acceptance and release from shame.  We want them to stay focused on their failure to society, as if shame will produce righteous behavior!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Augustine said:
Passion is the evil in adultery. If a man has no opportunity of living with another man's wife, but if it is obvious for some reason that he would like to do so, and would do so if he could, he is no less guilty than if he was caught in the act. [i]

Country gentleman and a former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter said:
I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me. [ii]

Adultery is not just a sin to prudish Christians denying their natural instincts. Every people group through time has rules about cheating on your spouse. Inevitably, there are consequences to adultery.

In Native American cultures, a husband on an adulterous wife could impose severe penalties. In many instances she was made to endure a bodily mutilation that would, in the mind of the aggrieved husband, prevent her from ever being a temptation to other men again. [iii]

Chinese husbands who committed adultery against their wives were punished with castration, required by ancient laws. While men were castrated, women who committed adultery were punished by confinement. This punishment was the law during the Zhou dynasty. [iv]

In the Koran it says:
"Do not go near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and evil, opening roads (to other evils)." Qur'an 17:32

Jesus turns the spotlight of God’s Love to a dark corner—private thoughts. If you think that you are righteous, look deep inside. Some people think, “What’s the big deal? What does it matter if you keep the thoughts to yourself or privately view pornography? Some believe that it’s not sexual sin unless you have intercourse outside of marriage. To the mistaken notion of ‘technically being a virgin’, Jesus tells the truth. If it happens in your heart, it is breaking God’s Law.

In the cultures surrounding Jesus, each had laws with harsh consequences for disobedience. And no matter the rule, there were many lawbreakers.

Adultery in traditional Judaism applies equally to both parties, but depends on the marital status of the woman (Lev. 20:10). Though the Torah prescribes the death penalty for adultery, the legal procedural requirements were very exacting and required the testimony of two witnesses of good character for conviction. The defendant also must have been warned immediately before performing the act. [v]

[iii] Schoolcraft, Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, I, 236; V, 683, 684, 686.
[iv] Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. China Branch (1895). Journal of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for the year ..., Volumes 27-28. The Branch. p. 160. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
[v] Maimonides, Book of the Commandments, Prohibition 392 and the note at the end of Prohibition 347, Hebrew translation and notes by Rabbi Joseph Kapach, Massad Harav Kook, Jerusalem 1971

Monday, March 14, 2011


John Knight is a father of three children. One of his boys Paul has no eyes. John tells this true story:

On Thursday a box of 10 Hostess Ho Hos made it into the van. Three children and one adult each had one, leaving six. The rest were being saved for ‘movie night’ on Friday. 

One child simply could not stop thinking about those Ho Hos.

While the rest of the family was distracted with dinner guests Thursday evening, that child ate four more Ho Hos. This same child also ate the last two for breakfast the next morning.

So, this child disobeyed mom, stole something that wasn’t his, considered his own desires ahead of his siblings, did not practice self-control, and allowed his eyes and his thoughts to constantly come back to what was tempting him. These are typical, childish sins, of course. But they were sins.

Paul has never been tempted to steal Ho Hos, or anything else for that matter. He is completely free from that kind of sin.

And which child do we feel sorry for?

Would your temptations change if you had no eyes? Jesus makes extreme suggestions for dealing with the things that tempt us.

Matthew 5:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

In a classic ‘this is better than that’ Jesus suggests that good things like eyes and hands can become tools for our spiritual corruption. In fact, the etymology of the word ‘adultery’ the meaning conveys the idea of polluting. Good gifts like eyes and hands can pollute you into hell.

Jesus was a teacher of God’s Law. The Kingdom of God was a central teaching of His ministry. Instead of turning a blind eye to God’s Law, Jesus informed His listeners that the Law goes further than they were willing to go. Isn’t that always the case with Law? There is often a boundary or life rule that we want exclusion from. We want to eat the whole box of Ho-hos.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Luke 7:
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—

the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. 

The first thing the resurrected man does is talk. Perhaps he is asking what is happening and how did he get here. He looks at Jesus first and starts talking.

When a miracle happens, a conversation begins. Jesus reputation grows. There is an awareness that God cares about people. This is the meta-message of miracles. By seeing someone healed or changed dramatically, the God conversation starts again.

Miracles pull back the curtain and reveal the Kingdom of God. What does this miracle mean? It means that God cares about people and sometimes does the unexpected.

If a miracle does not happen, it does not diminish God’s heart of love for people who suffer. The Beatitudes reveal a God who keeps track of everything and surprises everyone on the day when coffin lids open again.

The Psalms describe a loving God who has a bottle that he stores your tears in. Every tear counts to God. Whether you have a pill bottle or a keg of tears, God knows where each tear comes from.

On our resurrection day and in the healing days prior, Jesus has the right to say to us, “Do not cry.”

God has come to help his people.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


One day Jesus came upon a procession heading out of town to lay a dead man in a tomb.

Luke 7:
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

His closest companions and a large crowd of fans surrounded Jesus. They are heading into the town of Nain. At the gate, they encounter another crowd heading to the tombs. With a double-sized crowd, Jesus notices one person-- the crying mother.

Maybe it’s that same thing that we have felt when we saw a grieving parent at the funeral home. There can be hundreds present, but one stands out to the Lord.

There may be times when you are the one suffering in the crowd. Though surrounded by others who share your grief or sympathize, no one fully feels what you are feeling—except Jesus.

Jesus saw the widow who had experienced so much loss. Her husband was long-gone and now her only son had died, too. She faces destitution with no one left to provide for her. The loves of her life are gone. Jesus notices.

She is crying in deep sorrow and Jesus approaches her with the shocking words, “Do not cry.” Can we even understand Jesus when he requests such a thing? How can she not cry? She has every right and reason to cry.

In this instance, Jesus disregards the five stages of grief from Kubler-Ross. He does not make room for two or more years of working through the loss.

Only Jesus can tell a person to stop crying, knowing what he will do next. He walks over to the dead man’s body and touches him.

To add shock and awe to the insensitive-sounding ‘do not cry’, he touches a dead body making him ceremonially unclean. Jesus does a dirty thing, which religious people would find inexcusable. He touches the dead.

But, it is not unclean for his healing touch brings resurrection life to the man and he awakens from the dead. It is not unclean to touch a living man. Now the ‘do not cry’ makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I have often watched people approach an open casket. In a private and deeply personal moment, the griever comes face to face with whom they have lost. It is not unusual for them to touch the dead body, caress the hair or bend down and kiss the departed.

The coffin often contains personal items including pictures, letters, a Bible or a hockey jersey. Someday, there may be people bending over your casket and touching your hair or kissing you. What will the people who are left put in your casket to commemorate your life?

Usually, there is someone at the funeral home who is especially affected by the death. It may a spouse, a sibling, child or grandchild but we have an instinctive sense of the one most affected. In reverent, hushed tones we say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We clasp their hands or hold them in an embrace.

Tombs and graveyards are often out of town. We remove the dead from the community and put their remains in quiet gardens away from the world of our busy lives. Or in some cases, we put their ashes on a mantle or end table in our homes.  (Most of us are glad that we do not practice taxidermy).

Historically, churches used to have graveyards outside their church building. We used to keep the dead close to our worship. Perhaps the church had a greater sense of eternal relationship to one another in days gone by.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Within the Law of God, much attention is giving to conflict resolution and dealing with injustice. If you break the law, there are systems to deal with resolving matters. Before a matter between you and another escalates to taking legal action, Jesus gives us a new way of thinking about conflict resolution. 

Instead of basing our responses on defensiveness and retaliation, let’s look for ways to settle out of court. If we need to use the courts, let us use them appropriately without malice. 

Matthew 5:
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

God would rather that you resolve your issues peacefully before coming to worship. He places a higher value on conflict resolution than church attendance. Some day you may need to skip church so you can get together and seek peace with someone that you are in disagreement with. Coming back to church after settling a matter will give you a healthier understanding of how God’s Kingdom works. 

Friday, March 4, 2011


You do not need to be a lawyer to understand the Law Jesus teaches. Up close and personal, the Christ presents a compelling case for love. God’s Law is love.

Jesus invites us into a fearless, moral inventory that will leave us facing the inevitable conclusion that we need God’s help and grace. Life in God’s Kingdom will touch every area of our inner world. The Beatitudes gave an attitudinal framework in which God’s Law could be received.

Broken, humble, empty people find a loving Father who goes into the enclosure of the snarling, frothing beast and brings back the children’s Frisbee. But, love is not always so quaint and pretty.

Jesus proceeds to add His commentary to the most familiar moral code. Life in God’s Kingdom will require a new way of looking at humanity’s self-measurement. We will not survive the future based on business-as-usual. We must be taken apart before we can be put back together. We must unlearn selfish love and self-interest before we can live in God’s Love.

One of those politically incorrect attitudes is hatred. Children are taught that ‘hate’ is a strong word and that they should say ‘it’s not what I prefer’ or ‘I am not pleased with this’. The grade one student does not hate broccoli; it’s just a vegetable that he has not acquired a taste for. He will not choose broccoli as a preference. Uh-huh… Johnny hates broccoli!

This is the definition of hate: [i]
  • Dis-like intensely; feel antipathy or aversion towards; the emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action
We do not usually think of hatred as a virtue, but it is an attribute of God. There are things that God hates and despises.

Often we assume that love and hatred are opposites. But are they? You can hate without loving, but you cannot love without hating something. To love your spouse you will grow in your opposition to adultery. Love requires us to oppose and dislike its lack. Love leads to action.

We get ourselves into trouble when we do not focus hatred appropriately. We need to examine the loopholes we have given to the matter of hating.

Matthew 5:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

I have personally known several murderers. Everyday, they live with reminders and restrictions resulting from their wrongful action. They are definitely subject to judgment. In some nations, they pay for their crime by being put to death.

So what difference is there between you and them? It may surprise you to find out that you could reach a point where your hatred leads you to murder. Jesus says that your anger towards someone will cause God to evaluate and scrutinize you. A bad attitude of diminishing the worth of others can lead you into hell.

The term ‘Raca’ was used to tell someone that they are worthless. How are your feelings toward the people that get under your skin? God is paying close attention to your attitude. You can choose to hate a person or you can hate the enemy of your soul who would have you destroy them in your mind.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Think about the Old and New Testament pronouncements of God’s Law.

In the Old Testament, God spoke through the man Moses. Alone, he climbed up Mount Sinai where fire and thunder prevailed. Holiness and fear prevented Moses from looking directly at God. The Law was committed to stone tablets by the finger of God. Moses brought the Law to the people as their mediator.

In the New Testament, we find God speaking through another man Jesus. He is also on a mountain, but there is no fear, fire or thunder. Instead of people waiting downhill, they sit at Jesus’ feet and the finger of God is writing the Law on the hearts of Jesus’ listeners. God is approachable and present in the person of Jesus. The full embodiment of holiness is present in Jesus and people are attracted to this teacher.

Jesus does not roll His eyes at the archaic, stone tablets of God’s Law. Instead the Chief Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom speaks heart-to-heart with everyday people; Jew and Gentile alike.

Matthew 5:
19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

We are not so different from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. They were emphatic about obedience until they found a loophole that allowed for their selfishness and pride.

Jesus speaks correctively to our instinctive side-lining of God’s Law. We are called to a higher standard of righteousness than the nit-picking, minimizing religion of public appearances.

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