Friends, guess what! The other day I came across one of the best speeches of all time and wanted to share a few points I gathered from it.
There is a call:
Jesus clearly announces to those early followers and to us in a space-time distance that we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That is a vision God gives us, an identity, – which incidentally is larger than us. So, let us use these days to grow beyond ourselves, not just physically.
Jesus reiterates this purpose for our lives by pointing out that our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and religious leaders. He illustrates this with examples of what to do and not to do – by raising the bar of perfection even beyond what the religious leaders perceived that law demanded. He further contrasts the cosmetic appearance of religiosity with the motivations of a true follower of God.
In a time, when goal-setting and vision could be a very astute exercise with definite selfish takeaways, Jesus moves his followers to a godly call. He taught them to pray, ‘Thy will be done’ and showed them such a godly vision that includes an honourable place for the stranger and a commitment even to the enemy. The call is God-given and other-centred. Now is a good time to do some course-correction if we have missed that point.
Os Guinness in his book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of your Life, issues a caution, “When Christians concentrate their time and energy on their own separate spheres and their own institutions… they lose the outward thrusting, transforming power that is at the heart of the gospel. Instead of being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ – images of a permeating and penetrating action, Christians and Christian institutions become soft and vulnerable to corruption from within.”
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus uses the word ‘in secret’ 3 times to talk about our private lives – as opposed to the parading of our religious accomplishments. He refers to giving in secret, praying in secret, and fasting in secret. In these days of lockdown, we sure have an opportunity to set our private world in order. In earnestness, we could attempt the 21-day rule to start a habit and this might just be our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
There is a consequence:
This is crucial because the whole sermon is packed with commands and consequences. There are consequences for our choices and so this calls for a serious engagement.
Jesus outlines a series of spiritual attitudes and presents the result of such stances. The list includes – ‘the poor in spirit’, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, ‘those who mourn’, for they will be comforted, ‘the meek’, for they will inherit the earth, ‘those who hunger and thirst after righteousness’, for they will be filled, … ‘the pure in heart’, for they will see God… Now the corollary of these statements would read: Those who are not poor in spirit do not inherit the kingdom of heaven. The proud will not inherit the earth. Those who do not hunger and thirst after righteousness will not be filled … and so on.
The options that Christ presents to His followers are crystal clear. The binary opposites in His message run through all 3 chapters. The blessed ones and ‘not blessed’ ones, the narrow and the wide gate, the wise and the foolish builders, the true and the false disciple, the good and bad tree, genuine prayer, fasting and giving and false prayer, fasting & giving. It is all in black and white.
In these days of panic buying, the faith that Christ invites us to is simple trust. While we are called to provide for the people in our care, an obsessive pressure to hoard is called out. Jesus said: ‘Do not store up treasures on earth where moth and vermin destroy,’ ‘but store treasures in heaven…’ He further said: ‘No man can serve both God and money’ & ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you’. Christ hit the nail on the head when He said: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’.
There is a heavenly Father:
Jesus gives two pictures when talking about worry and anxiety. He says, ‘Look at the birds of the air…’ and ‘see how the flowers of the field grow…’ and invites us to trust Him. He contrasts how even wicked human beings know how to give good gifts to their children, with ‘how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him’.
The message is simple, the choices set out are clear. What will you choose today? Let not time slip away, as it tends to, while we go about our normal, busy lives. This might be our God-given chance to retrospect and get back to the basics.
May the sovereign Lord watch over you and your loved ones during these trying times.