SOTM: Matthew 5:33-37 (Swearing)

SOTM

(Mat 5:33-37 ESV) “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.”

Hmm …

How can this be so when God himself has been known to utter the occasional oath? Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:31-32 (Divorce, the Ethics)

SOTMOne last, very important point. “Divorces” in Mat 5:32 translates a word meaning to release, let go, or dismiss. The word was routinely used of ending a marriage, and so we translate “divorce,” but that’s not quite right. There’s a huge cultural divide we have yet to navigate.

You see, in American law, a husband cannot divorce his wife except with the consent of state government. A court proceeding is required.

In contemporary practice, the court really can’t say no. No-fault divorce laws mean that anyone asking for a divorce is going to get one, but only if they file a petition in court and let the court resolve property rights and custody of the children. To an American, “divorce” is a privilege granted by the government.

Back in the 1960’s and earlier, many states would not grant a divorce except for adultery or cruelty. Laws varied, and some couples who had grown to despise each other could not end their marriages. The result was a “quickie divorce” industry where couples traveled to other states to obtain a divorce from a more lenient legal system. Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:31-32 (Divorce, the Grammar)

SOTM

(Mat 5:31-32 ESV) “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

“Marries” in v. 32 means, in the Greek, marries. Really. Therefore, if a divorced woman remarries, she really marries. There is nothing in the text suggesting that the marriage is void. Jesus says it’s a marriage, and therefore it’s a marriage.

“Divorces” in v. 32 means divorces. Really. The marriage is ended. Jesus is not saying that the original marriage continues. No, he quite plainly calls what happens a “divorce” not “an attempted divorce.” Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:31-32 (Divorce, the OT background)

SOTM

(Mat 5:31-32 ESV) “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

This is, of course, one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. I’ve written an eBook on marriage, divorce, and remarriage (“MDR” in Internet parlance) But If You Do Marry. And we covered the book and all the relevant scriptural passages in an earlier series. Anyone wishing to discuss another MDR passage is welcome to do so at an earlier post dealing with that passage. But I’d like to avoid having to repeat an entire book’s worth of material here.

Now, up to this point in the SOTM, we’ve been interpreting Jesus’ “but I say unto you” teachings as deeper interpretations of the OT, read in light of the character of God as revealed in Jesus. That is, Jesus is not issuing new laws but showing us how the Torah is to be read in the Kingdom. Continue reading

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Christopher Tin: Calling All Dawns

Grammy winning international album, with English subtitles. Begins with the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili.

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SOTM: Matthew 5:27-30 (Lust, Part 2)

SOTMWho’s to blame?

Notice that Jesus does not blame the woman for how the man thinks of her. Jesus is very plainly making the point that men can control their thoughts. But this does not mean that women aren’t accountable for how they dress or for flirting with men they cannot have.

After all, a woman who loves her neighbor would not want to tempt men to sin — even if it’s ultimately that man’s choice. Why tempt him at all? Why be selfish?

I pity any minister or eldership that needs to confront women in their church about how they dress. Women can be incredibly defensive about their clothing choices — and unspeakably naive about how their clothing affects the men around them.

Now, there are some churches where the leadership is so caught up in legalism that they make foolish demands on women. But in the vast majority of cases, the reason the leadership is objecting to how a woman dresses is because the men are complaining — because they don’t wish to be tempted or distracted. They find the woman’s revealing dress a problem for their own obedience to God and are asking for help. A woman who refuses is acting in an unspeakably selfish way. Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:27-30 (Lust, Part 1)

SOTM

(Mat 5:27-30 ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

We all know that this passage was written to terrify teenage boys into abstinence … except that it speaks of adultery rather than fornication. Jesus was actually speaking to the married. Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:24-25 (Court)

SOTM

 

(Mat 5:25-26 ESV) 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Now — and this is important — it sometimes helps to read Jesus as speaking with a twinkle in his eye and a wink. This is something of a joke. Jesus is being a bit hyperbolic (he’s exaggerating) to make a point. After all, sometimes when you go to court you win. It’s been known to happen.

Jesus is speaking in very pragmatic terms to make a more theological point. The point isn’t to calculate the risk/reward ratio and decide whether to compromise. Jesus is no pragmatist or utilitarian philosopher. No, his point remains the one he’s been making all along: be a peacemaker! seek reconciliation! even if you expect to win the lawsuit, it’s better to settle and be at peace than to win! Continue reading

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One Thousand E-Mail Subscribers!

1000This may not be a big deal for some bloggers, but I’m pretty excited to have just hit 1,000 email subscribers to OneInJesus.

The crazy thing is that I began 2014 at around 600 email subscribers — meaning I was adding less than 100 subscribers per year on average. Now, I’m adding about 25 a day, starting just a few weeks ago. I couldn’t be more astonished.

I have no idea why things have changed so dramatically. The WordPress stats package and Google Analytics don’t show any activity regarding the site that would generate this kind of increase. So I’m clueless (an all-too-familiar feeling).

(And I’ve checked the database. It’s not spammers. They all seem to be real people.)

Anyway — I’m flattered, humbled, and more than a little surprised. Thanks very much for reading.

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SOTM: Matthew 5:23-24 (Be reconciled to your brother)

SOTM

(Mat 5:23-24 ESV)  23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus speaks in terms of his audience. He was speaking to Jews under Torah, and so he speaks in Torah terms.

Shortly before Jesus’ time, Judaism had been heavily influenced by two great rabbis, Hillel (the Elder) and Shammai. They disagreed about some core issues, including  which of God’s commands is the highest. Shammai considered the Temple observances to be of the greatest importance, whereas Hillel taught that loving for one’s neighbor is a higher command. Thus, when a conflict arises, the higher command is the one to obey. Continue reading

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