We’re in a new series called “Foundations” which builds off of Jesus’ metaphor in Matt 7: “A house built on sand will never be able to stand BUT a house that’s built on the rock will never be able to fall.”
This week, we’re in Practice #9: Go Do Justice. God’s righteousness and justice are a major theme in both the Old Testament and the New Testament because they are intrinsic to His own character. God’s people are to show the world who God is by being people characterized by righteous living and a pursuit of justice. In Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Moses instructs the leaders of the twelve tribes to make sure that there is justice at the highest level: “Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
If we fast forward several centuries, the people ruling at the time of Jesus are a sect of Jews known as the Pharisees. They’re highly regarded by the people and have a reputation for holy living. But Jesus exposes them as “white-washed tombs” - men who pervert God’s ways while pretending to be holy. Jesus instructs His disciples to do the opposite of the Pharisees. Jesus’ followers are to be characterized by justice and righteousness, in keeping with Moses’ words in Deuteronomy.
Let’s spend a few minutes examining the text in the Sermon on the Mount as a way to see what righteousness and justice look like when lived out in ordinary human life. Today, we’ll read from Matthew 5:43-48 (NET):
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Some questions and next steps:
- What radical instructions does Jesus give His followers in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount? How do you think they would have received His words?
- How does God’s righteousness show itself to both believers and unbelievers?
- What would it look like in your life if you loved your enemy and prayed for your persecutors?
- The word “perfect” is even better translated as “whole” in the sense of holistic righteousness. What do you think it means for you to be whole as your heavenly Father is whole?
- Spend some time in prayer, thanking God for his righteousness, and praying that His Holy Spirit would create a generosity within you that produces righteousness not just for those who like you and treat you well but for even your “enemies.” Ask God to make you more like Himself, perfectly righteous in all ways. Rest in the knowledge that Jesus has made you righteous by virtue of your faith in Him.
Published on 11-24-2021 @ 4:47 AM CDT