The world and the Church seem to like the Sermon on the Mount found in the gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7. Every time a Christian stands against sin someone is quoting Jesus from His famous sermon. Whether it’s “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (5:5), “Turn the other cheek” (not an exact quote of Jesus but it’s what everyone says…5:39), “Love your enemies” (5:44), “Pray in your closet” (again, not precisely what He said but same as above…6:6), “Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (6:34), “Judge not, that you be not judged” (7:1) and of course…”do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (same as previous 2 quotes that get stretched a little…7:12).
It’s great that a selfish world and the narcissistic churchgoer know those words from the Sermon on the Mount. I stand by those passages because they actually are the words of Christ. Of course, context is often ignored which pretty much changes the meanings but I am certainly not ashamed or afraid of being confronted with those words.
But I want to offer a counter to those oft repeated seven sayings of Christ from His sermon by those who wish to scold Christian activists. The following seven sayings are also found in the Sermon on the Mount. They do not get a whole lot of circulation because it is difficult to translate them any way other than what they clearly say. If the world and liberal segments of Christianity are more than willing to tout the aforementioned sayings of Jesus, it’s time that the faithful remnant start sharing these seven swords from the Sermon on the Mount.
Sword #1: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (5:11).
He goes on in verse 12 to say that “your reward is great in heaven.” The meek inherit the earth but the faithful who are persecuted are rewarded greatly in Heaven. Rare are the occasions when one is persecuted for being a doormat. Again, this world is the blessing for being meek. A great reward in Heaven is promised for the persecuted. How many times has that been explained to the world and go-along-to-get-along church?
Sword #2: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (5:13).
Surely there isn’t anyone who would suggest that if something could not possibly happen Jesus would warn us against what cannot happen? “You are the salt of the earth” and if y-o-u lose your saltiness you are “no longer good for anything…” Jesus said some people might be good for nothing? He sure did. This isn’t the place to do a Greek word study on the word “salt” but I encourage anyone who wants to to go right ahead. And if anyone wants to suggest that Jesus is describing an impossible scenario then I suppose it could be said that those words themselves are good for nothing and should be trampled underfoot. Any takers besides the Bible haters?
Sword #3: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20).
Two things about that statement. First, it is patently clear that in Jesus’ mind righteousness is a fundamental requirement for eternal life. The rejection of righteousness by people, culture, and government is precisely why most evangelical Christians embrace Christian activism! Does anyone really wish to argue that dismembering children and selling their tissue and organs is “righteous”? Yet as we have all seen it is going on and if Christian activists meekly acquiesce, it will continue to do so blessed by taxpayer funding. And that is only a single righteousness issue. Second, and even more jarring, is the realization that Christ Himself is acknowledging some people will never enter Heaven. At a bare minimum He is referring to the scribes and Pharisees. Without getting into a lengthy discussion about them it is clear that the people He was addressing in the Sermon on the Mount needed to be made aware that they were facing the danger of being shut out too (else there would have been no need to say it).
Sword #4: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (5:29-30).
I can’t picture a flower in His hair as He is saying that. Did we just hear Christ advise people to gouge out their own eyes and throw them away? Words paint pictures. What do you think about that picture Jesus just painted in your mind? The hand too. Why in the world would Jesus paint such a graphic and ugly picture for people listening to a sermon? Self-mutilation. Because it is preferable to hell. Want some context? This saying follows His revelation that even looking lustily at another person other than one’s spouse is adultery in the eyes of God. And that opens up the whole issue of sexual immorality. In Jesus’ mind, an out of control libido can and will put one in the fast lane to hell. There is a good reason why the Church cannot possibly buy into the “we’re not hurting anyone” argument fornicators, adulterers, and homosexuals have and continue to utilize. There is simply no way any faithful follower of Christ can embrace, advocate, or even ignore something Jesus said was so dangerous that self-mutilation was preferable than allowing it to continue.
Sword #5: “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (6:15).
This one works both ways but that is no reason not to bring it up. It is more than interesting, telling, and informative that the only comment Jesus had about the model prayer He just shared with His listeners had to do with what it would take to be barred from the presence of God. Unbeknownst to the world and church liberals this is actually the 7th time in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus has spoken of those who aren’t fit and will not be in God’s Kingdom (5:13, 20, 22, 29-30, 6:1, 15).
Sword #6: “Do not give to dogs what is holy and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (7:6).
We all realize that Christ is referring to some people as dogs and pigs, right? Now, where is this found in the Sermon on the Mount? Oh, that’s right, it directly follows that one quote the world loves to use so much on the Church “Judge not, that you be not judged” (7:1). Then there is talk about specks and logs in the eyes. Then the dog and pig quote. The world and liberal churchgoers automatically assume that they are the ones with specks of dust in their eyes and Christian evangelicals and activists are those with the logs. What if it’s reversed? That kind of gives the whole dog and pig saying a little more light and life doesn’t it?
Sword #7: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (7:21).
Wow. Apparently, Jesus thinks He has the final say on what’s what and who is who. “Jesus never said he was the Son of God. That was something imposed on him by his followers later on.” We’ll see. “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality so I believe it’s okay.” Good luck with that. “Jesus is the pathway to God for Christians as Mohammad is for Muslims as nirvana, Joseph Smith, etc. is for others.” “Not everyone…will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I don’t offer these “swords” to be used against anything Jesus said that I don’t like. I know He said “love your enemies.” I struggle with that. I know He said not to be anxious for anything. I’m a failure there too. So when the world and liberal churchgoers tell me to be meek, less judgmental, and more loving, I accept it as a fair admonition. It doesn’t matter who it comes from when it is the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount being directed at me. I’m fair game.
However, it is time for the world and left leaning church folk to start learning and considering all of the famous sermon by Jesus. Not just the parts that fit the liberal, pluralistic, global warming, “I have my rights!”, love equals acceptance narrative. There is too much at stake to sit back and let a world full of sinners go to hell. Those who don’t want to bother with the learning or standing part might just discover they have joined those on the wide and broad path.
The Sermon on the Mount isn’t subject to liberals or conservatives or anyone else for that matter. It is all of us who live in this world who are going to find out one way or another that we are subject to it and the One who preached it.