Lenten Devotional 2021: Day 20

Monday, March 8 – Written by Lynne Bullock

The Fulfillment of the Law Matthew 5:17-20

Photo credit: Dale Kucharczyk

I wonder how it felt to be standing amongst that huge crowd of people as Jesus taught on that hillside. Some of the things he taught sounded like heresy, especially when he said that, if they wanted to enter the Kingdom of God, they had to be much better than the Pharisees! You can imagine how the Pharisees received this message. The Pharisees saw themselves as righteous people who lived by the Mosaic Law, strictly observing set rituals. Jesus challenged many of their rigid practices. Jesus had a way of turning the teachings of the day and the understanding of the scriptures upside down.

I wonder how we would feel today if a great teacher came to our church and began to speak against all we believed. Would we write that person off as a heretic or would we prayerfully consider what was being said?

A few years ago I was faced with a decision that challenged what I had been taught. This decision was very important to me because it involved someone I loved. I sought God’s answer in prayer because I did not want to be guilty of loving this person more than I loved God.

In answer to my prayer, God very clearly told me:

  • My only responsibility was to love everyone as God first loved me.
  • We are all created equal in the image of God.
  • It is easy to love those who are the same as us; God is calling us to love ALL people.

Jesus knew that no one, not even the esteemed leaders, could ever be good enough to fulfill the law in their own strength, so Jesus made the supreme sacrifice on the cross so that we could be forgiven and the Law would be fulfilled through him.

A number of years ago many young people wore brightly coloured bracelets with WWJD printed on them. “What Would Jesus Do?” was the question they were to ask themselves before making any decisions. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves that same question today in regards to inequality, refugees, homelessness, the poor, the marginalized and the environment.

Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States of America, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for diplomacy and advocacy for the poor and marginalized. After his term as President, Mr. Carter joined forces with Habitat for Humanity and 37 years later he is still working with them at age 97. In 2000 he left his beloved Southern Baptist roots where he had been a member for over 70 years. He felt he could no longer in good conscience remain a Southern Baptist because their leaders were reading the Bible out of context which led to increasingly rigid doctrines against women. This violated the basic premises of his Christian faith so he acted with courage and stood up to what he saw as hypocrisy in his beloved church. (The Observer, 2009, a Carter Foundation Magazine)

I wonder how our theology and teaching today line up with Jesus’ proposal that basic kindness and compassion are more important than religious rules and laws. Do we have the courage to walk the talk of Jesus?

Prayer: Gracious God, open our eyes to see where the path to aliveness is leading us. Fill us with love and compassion for all your created beings. Thank you for inviting us to be part of the Kingdom of God. Amen