Matthew 5:21-37 Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not murder'; and `whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, `You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
"You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
"It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
"Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be `Yes, Yes' or `No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Reflection Thousands of years before Roe versus Wade and the social political conversations about a persons “right” to choose,’the Jewish scribe Eliezer ben Sira of Jerusalem wrote the wisdom teachings known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach in which he made clear, it is a person’s “obligation” to choose. “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. (God) has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.” (Eccl 15.15-20)
It is more than a right. It is our obligation to choose. Do we choose a life driven by externals, by splashes of righteousness and enslavement to the letter of the law? Or do we choose a life upheld by the interior presence of God with us? Do we choose a life consumed by lust for food, drink or sex? Or do we choose a life nourished in the wisdom of God and God’s messengers? Do we choose a life possessed by desire for security, attention, affection or power? Or do we choose a life free to give away the gifts that have been given to us?
Jesus is upping the ante by instructing the disciples and us to choose the more difficult way, the way of knowing our selves and making conscious choices to live our lives in integrity with God’s economy. When we come to church on Sunday our prayers asking God to forgive the “things we have done and the things we have left undone” and our generous plate offerings are not enough if we “harbor anger, jealousy, bitterness, hostility, infidelity or any kind of ill will toward another person.” Jesus tells us, it is what’s inside that counts.
Coming to worship, asking God to forgive us for our desecrating feelings is not enough. We must choose to grow in self awareness, and this is really hard. It is hard because of who we really are.
In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, (I paraphrase) “God created humankind in God’s image… male and female God created them.” (Gen 1.27) This is an outrageous claim that carries with it enormous responsibility. Let me be crystal clear, we are not god, we are godlike. Created in the image and likeness of God, Imago Dei, we are a shadow or snapshot of God. We are imbued with godlike qualities. The question is, are we choosing to allow our godlike qualities to show? That is the heart of self-awareness and the fruit of conscious choice.
Two questions I choose to reflect during the upcoming Lenten season are; What are my unique godlike qualities? What choices can I make to allow them to show? We are obliged to choose.
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