Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13, 2009 No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

READ: Matthew 5:33-42
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.
34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37 Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil.

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Beginning way back at verse 12 Jesus began a series of sayings that all have a first line that begins with "You..." and a following line that begins with "But I tell you..." They are:


You are the salt of the earth...
But if salt has lost its taste...
You are the light of the world...
And a city on a hill cannot be hidden...
You have heard it said... do not murder...
But I say to you anyone who is angry...
You have heard it said... do not commit adultery
But I say to you anyone who looks at a woman...
You have heard it said... get a certificate of divorce
But I say to you anyone who divorces his wife...
You have heard it said... do not swear falsely...
But I say to you do not take an oath at all...
You have heard it said "an eye for an eye..."
But I say to you do not resist an evil man...
You have heard it said love your neighbor...
But I say to you love your enemies...

The genius of these sayings is that each one demonstrates the small-heartedness of the teachers of Jesus' day. They had convinced themselves of their own righteousness before God by using the safest interpretation they could come up with in matters judicial and religious. They couldn't even imagine what kind of standard a really holy God would demand of them. And yet they demanded terrible punishments from simple sinners like you and me.

Jesus blows these "teachers" out of the water by offering such extreme interpretations of these legal passages that even the legalists of his day would have been appalled by what he said. I think it is hilarious that the legalists of OUR day use the saying about divorce as a proof-text that no one should ever re-marry after a divorce. I don't believe that's what Jesus was driving at in the least. The complacent "teachers" had divorce all neatly worked out so it would be easy enough for any of their cronies to get a divorce any time they liked. Jesus says, "look... if you're going to make it that easy to divorce let's broaden the terms of sin just that wide: anyone who divorces commits adultery... anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery... and while we're at it... anyone who LOOKS at a woman in lust is guilty of adultery.

He ends the whole discussion with a final blow: you want to pronounce judgment on your fellow men and women? Fine. Then BE PERFECT. Your heavenly father is.

You see? None of us is in a position to judge. None of us is above reproach. ALL of us are, alike, depraved sinners desperately in need of grace. As I said a few days ago, until we realize our own need before God, we'll never be in a position to be blessed. This is, however, no license to go out and live any way you like. This is a license to love God with your whole heart and do what pleases him.

Jon

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