Sermon on February 28, 2021
KaB Frankenberg, Andreas Latossek
Standards that challenge – The Sermon on the Mount
purity and fidelity Mt. 5, 27-32
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Standards that challenge.
- get tough with ourselves and others,
- bury your head in the sand or
- act hypocritically only superficially very piously, and
- Jesus doesn’t want any of that.
We see God’s standard and nature in what Jesus says:
- God is perfect.
- And with this standard Jesus also goes to the commandments and explains how God actually thought them and what the meaning behind them is.
- And this sense is always to enable a successful life.
- We have to keep that in mind !!!
- And for this successful life we need guard rails that protect us and give us orientation.
- Not to restrict us but to give us freedom to lead a successful life.
- At first he doesn’t even answer your question, but shifts the perspective.
- He tells them you are asking the wrong question.
- You want to test the limits, but God cares about the value and protection of marriage. It’s not about where I don’t commit adultery, when can I part, but about the fact that there is a unity of a man and a woman who have made a lifelong covenant with each other.
- God thought it that way from the point of view of creation, and this covenant is not some social convention that people have come up with, but it is instituted by God.
- Marriage goes back to God and that is a wonderful gift.
- What God has put together, man should not separate.
- So we notice: a completely different focus, a successful life that needs to be protected.
1. God gives and protects marriage and sexuality
And I want us to see that positive focus behind Jesus’ speeches this morning.
- God describes in the Bible how he creates man and woman,
- how he sees them as complementary to one another is described at the very beginning.
- What a joy Adam feels when he sees Eve.
- So a wonderful gift what God makes us.
And this wonderful gift should reflect something of God himself.
Paul compares the love in a marriage with the love of Jesus for his church and with the love for us.
- God in himself, three in one, who have very close fellowship with one another, that’s how God imagined marriage.
- As a reflection of his close unity and his love for us.
- Jesus is here in the picture of the Pharisees.
- Sin leads to hell, as was mentioned the last time Jesus talked about dealing with one another.
- Hell is the place of distance from God after our life. We sometimes smile at that, probably also because we have strange images in our heads of hell that the Bible doesn’t know, but Jesus says that this place will exist.
- And to stay in the Pharisee image for now, sin leads to hell, so it is better to do whatever you can to avoid this place.
- You Pharisees with your righteousness, if you take it seriously, then you’d have to tear your eyes out and check off your hands. But we notice that if I do that with one eye, then I still have another eye and I can look quite well with that too.
- Some rabbis have tried to implement the words of Jesus and it was considered by them to have a bloody forehead as a mark of special holiness.
- Why? Well they always ran around with their heads down and then just ran into something.
- And we need someone to bear our guilt, because if we see this standard of Jesus, then probably most of them have already committed adultery.
What exactly does Jesus mean by the looks?
- But with many, it is perhaps more of a man’s interest when someone listens to me and gives me recognition, which makes a longing for more security and closeness grow in this person instead of my partner.
- That I imagine what it would be like to be able to share some things in life with this very person.
- Adultery begins in the heart, and each of us is challenged in different ways.
- The first is for the married to invest in a good marriage.
- When a marriage is stable we are less at risk.
- The second is, Jesus says, it is not a problem of external influences first, but of our heart, that we keep our hearts out to God and ask him for change.
- Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that he gives.
- Perhaps you feel that God is addressing you this morning on exactly this topic, then hold your heart out to him and ask him for a change.
And then it is so, I said earlier, that we also have a responsibility.
- Jesus is pretty radical on this subject.
- And even if it is with the eye and the hand in the image of the Pharisees, I believe that we too have to be quite radical in this area in order to maintain or fight for purity. Because we are confronted with this topic everywhere in our society.
- Whether it’s the conversations over coffee
- or in the latest soap or series on Netflix, which want to make it clear to us that a little foreign flirting and much more is not that bad.
- Whether it’s the half-naked women in every advertisement
- or the pornography that’s just a click away.
All of this is so damaging to our relationships, or when you are single it creates an unrealistic and unpleasant image of relationship and sexuality, which may mean that you cannot have a good relationship and experience fulfilled sexuality because your image is so distorted is.
If we believe that God’s standard is good for our life, then it is not easy for us in our society and we need something like an escape strategy, as with Joseph, who breaks away from Potifar’s wife, very different from David, his Look at Bathsheba.
Job says he made a covenant with his eyes, and Paul says we should focus our thoughts on what is good and what is pleasing to God, what promotes life.
This is self-control that we encourage through our own decisions, but it is also challenging and we do not always succeed. Maybe that’s not enough for you either and you need someone else to whom you can be honest because you are more challenged in this area.
- Sin that comes to light loses its power.
- Someone who can ask, who helps to fight together.
- Perhaps for you it is about avoiding stimuli, not watching some films, not going to certain places, putting your computer in a place where you do not run the risk of installing software that protects you.
I want to encourage you: take up the fight for this measure of purity, no matter whether you are man or woman, married or single. And when you have fallen, do not lie where you are, but let the love and grace of Jesus speak to you again and take up the fight again.
This is another reason why it is good that we can celebrate the Lord’s Supper afterwards and have it spoken to us.
- the strict ones around a Rabbi Schamai and those around Rabbi Hilel. They said that it is shameful when a woman lets the food burn or simply when she gets older and wrinkles and you like another woman better. And this second view, which was widespread at the time and was lived that way.
- Divorce without a lawyer.
- Divorce quick and cheap.
- Lightning divorce made easy Cheap, fast and convenient.
- Something that belongs together is torn apart.
- A piece of meat, I once brought two sheets of paper that were stuck together and what happens when you part?
- It leaves wounds, pain, fractures and turmoil.
- Psychology today confirms that, and Jesus knew it.
And therefore what Jesus is actually saying here is: Ask the right question: not when can I get a divorce, but what do I have to do to make my marriage heal again? Put all your strength, your love and your heart’s blood into your marriage. Don’t just give up on them, no matter how complicated your situation is.
The point is that new beginnings are possible through the power of the gospel.
Jesus says: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
God can and wants to change your heart and that of your partner if you are ready to do so. As church leaders, we cannot talk to you about divorce before we have talked to you about the path to God, his love, a new love for the other and reconciliation. But we are happy to help and are also happy to refer you to external consultants if you need help. And if your relationship is good right now, invest in your marriage before the trouble even comes. Learn to treat each other with respect and love, to argue fairly, to listen to and talk to each other, to live forgiveness and have fun together!
But now Jesus is asked about this passage from the Bible in Deuteronomy and he says:
But because of the hardness of people’s hearts, same subject as just now, because of your sinfulness, God has created an exception, a concession. Because God knows that where we humans relate, relationships can fail because of our hard hearts. It can get so broken that it can no longer be cemented. That’s why God made an exception. And this exception should not serve to push it to the limit again, to make it a right rather than investing in our marriages.
There are several reasons we read in the Bible for divorce.
- Paul writes, 1 Cor. 7, when one of the two partners gets to know Jesus and the other cannot do anything with it. The common basis is therefore no longer available and the unbelieving partner wants to separate from the other, then the believing partner can consent.
- Jesus says another reason is porneia. So the word means all extramarital intercourse.
- And from the overall context of the Bible it becomes clear that constant psychological cruelty and physical violence also call the continuation of a marriage into question.
It is important that there can be reasons, but it does not have to lead to a divorce, because God can create restoration in these cases too, and we know such cases where this has happened and a marriage has blossomed all over again.
All of this brings us to the controversial question of what about people who are divorced.
Jesus says that what God has put together, man should not separate and in this sense, if someone divorces for a reason other than the above-mentioned and remarries, then, says Jesus, he breaks the marriage, because before God still endured the old marriage.
These are the great general biblical principles on these difficult questions.
The perfect standard of God. How do we deal with it now?
Our federation, the Christ Forum Germany writes the following:
First of all, exactly these things that I have just tried to show with the help of the Bible, and then we read there in excerpts:
- We are convinced that God’s word bears witness to marriage as a lifelong and indissoluble relationship, which only allows divorce in irrevocably failed relationships as a way out and allows it in narrow exceptional cases.
- In this sense, divorce is only the last resort when all attempts at salvation have failed. For this reason, couples shouldn’t give up fighting for their marriage too quickly and should seek help early on in their relationship crisis.
- Divorced people should take responsibility for the failure of their relationship. (So acknowledge my part of the guilt and come to terms with it. This is often only possible with a distance when I can see more clearly and my injuries and my hatred, which may have been there, have settled down)
- They should also keep an eye on the well-being of their children and do everything to ensure that they are well taken care of. While remarriage was specifically regulated in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24: 1-4), it is fundamentally rejected by Jesus and the apostles.
- After a divorce, Christians are advised to either reconcile with their partner or to forego another marriage (Mt 19: 9; 1 Cor. 7: 10f).
- According to Jesus’ words, remarriage is to be equated with adultery (Mt 5, 32; 19, 9; Lk 16, 18). Through this unconditionality, the NT wants to protect marriage as the inviolable and holy order of God.
- We want to support church members who are divorced with pastoral care and encourage them to forego another marriage.
- If brothers and sisters are unable to follow this path, they cannot refer to an explicit word from Jesus about remarriage. A remarriage is therefore always fraught with guilt.
- Nevertheless, such a path should not be ruled out from the outset and for all time in order to prevent worse things from happening.
- Refused remarriage can add an extra burden and temptation to people who do not have the charism of celibacy (1 Corinthians 7: 7) (1 Corinthians 7: 5.9). There is a risk of double standards and secret illegitimate relationships.
- When divorced people have worked through the breakup of the marriage in in-depth pastoral discussions, a reasonable period of time has passed, and they decide to remarry, they should speak to the elders about it.
- If a church wedding is being considered, it must address the failure of the marriage, God’s forgiveness, and the special grace of a new beginning.
- But because Jesus did not open a door in his teaching, and that is because he wants to emphasize and protect the sanctity of marriage and because he knows what causes a broken marriage and divorce.
- According to research after one’s own death and the death of a close relative and perhaps an experience of abuse, this is the greatest crisis in a person’s life.
- Jesus says: invest everything you can in your marriage.
- And this sin, like others, can also be forgiven.
- And then we see in Jesus’ life how he deals with such situations. For example with the woman who is caught in adultery, whom the men all want to stone, and Jesus then says: Whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.
- This is exactly the line in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus says at the end that we should not judge others but pay attention to our own path.
- Jesus says I am not judging you.
- At the same time, Jesus addresses sin as sin and he says to this woman: Go there and don’t do it again!
- Grace also changes behavior and we don’t want to turn it into cheap grace that we just take lightly as it suits us.
- with Jesus there is grace for sinners.
- With Jesus there is forgiveness for guilt.
- With Jesus there is a new beginning that is possible.
And before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper right now, I invite us to come to God during the next songs.
Regardless of whether you are dealing with this area that we heard about this morning or a completely different area where this applies to you,
- we are allowed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus promises us God’s love, where he promises us his forgiveness, where he promises us his grace.
- And we can come with our guilt and let Jesus forgive us, also this morning.
- We can come to him and tell him: what you did for us, Jesus, that you paid for our debt on the cross and they forgive us, we need exactly that again and again and we need your Holy Spirit, who changes our hearts.
Thank you Jesus