Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

Matthew 5:21-48

I. Introduction.

The law of God is a reliable guide for successful living. Based on two great principles, reverence for God and respect for others.

Christianity is no easy "do-as-you-please" religion. He says that if we dare bear His name we are to believe and behave!

There are five problems with others we will not have when we believe and behave!

II. The problem of anger (Matt. 5:21-26).

A. The danger of anger (Matt. 5:22). The word "danger" appears three times in this one verse, the danger of anger. Read Mark 3:5 and Eph. 4:26. Anger is not always condemned in the Bible. God has given us the ability to feel anger, but He expects us to use it constructively.

In Matthew 5:22 Christ is not speaking about anger concerning a situation, but anger that is directed toward individual people. The word raca can hardly be translated because it describes a tone of voice more than content or meaning. Christ forbids the use of this word because it displays a spirit of arrogance and contemptuous anger.

Christ forbids also the usage of the word fool. Christ is forbidding us to destroy another person's name and reputation.

B. The defeat of anger (Matt. 5:23-26). Christ contends that one should discontinue worship, go to his brother, make things right, and then return to a meaningful worship experience. Christ is stating that the Christian takes the initiative in reconciliation. The sooner we take this initiative in asking forgiveness, the better and the easier it is. Therefore, Christ says, "Go first and be reconciled to thy brother."

Reconciliation is a prerequisite to fellowship with God.

III. The problem of adultery (Matt. 5:27 28).

In the matter of adultery, everybody involved loses.

Never is there a happy ending to an "affair," whether that affair be extramarital or premarital.

A. The root of adultery (Matt. 5:28). The law condemns the act of adultery; Jesus condemns the attitude of adultery.

The attitude He condemns is the lustful look. If we take the law of Moses literally, a man on a desert island can never be guilty of adultery. But according to the teachings of Christ, he could if he persisted in his lustful attitude toward women. In his imagination he could treat a woman as a passing pleasure, rather than a person. Thus Jesus deals with the root of the problem of adultery, which is a matter of the heart.

B. The remedy for adultery (Matt. 5:29-32).

Christ offers two remedies.

1. Personal purity.
2. Respect for marriage.

We must be careful not to become Pharisaical in our attitude. If God will forgive a person who lies, or who steals, or who commits adultery and repents, surely He will forgive a person who has made a mistake in his marriage.

IV. The problem of dishonesty (Matt. 5:33-37).

A. We must tell the truth under all circumstances (Matt. 5:34-36).

B. Dishonesty is solved by Christian character (Matt. 5:37).

V. The problem of retaliation (Matt. 5:38-42).

A. The senselessness of retaliation (Matt. 5:38). Exchanging criticism gets us nowhere except in serious trouble.

B. The alternative (Matt. 5:39-42). The ancient law of unlimited retaliation and the later law of limited retaliation is replaced by Christ with the law of no retaliation.

The implication of Christ's teaching is that if I am slapped in the face, I must neither hit back nor run. Rather I must stand my ground, take the insult, and demonstrate that as a Christian I would rather suffer wrong than do wrong.

VI. The problem of hate (Matt. 5:43-48).

A. The destructiveness of hate (Matt. 5:46-47). In verse 46, Christ states that hate destroy our rewards. In verse 47, He contends that it destroys our testimony. Ultimately hate destroys the person who hates.Hate warps our judgment, breaks down our personal poise and peace of mind, creates nervous disorders and high blood pressure, and can cause illness and death. These facts are confirmed by leading physicians in clinical studies.

B. The destruction of hate (Matt. 5:44-45).

1. We must love our enemies.
2. Bless our enemies. Speak well of them.
3. "Do good to them."
4. Pray for them.

VII. Conclusion.

Read verse 48. This is an impossible imperative, since no one can be as perfect as God. Yet the word perfect should not be interpreted to mean sinless or flawless. Rather we should understand it to mean the whole complete and mature. "Quit acting like a child!" He is admonishing us to grow up and become mature, as our heavenly Father is mature, and thus make our love all-inclusive. It is then you will be numbered among those who "believe and behave!"

VIII. Illustration.

In our relationships with others, often what passes for love is little more than a neat business transaction. People are kind to us, so we repay them with equal consideration. When they treat us unjustly, our negative response is really what they asked for. Everything is so balanced, so fair, so logical with this eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth kind of justice. But Christian love never settles for only what's reasonable. It insists on giving mercy as well as justice. It breaks the chain of logical reactions.

General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate Army who had made some derogatory remarks about him. Lee rated him as being very satisfactory. The person who asked the question seemed perplexed. "General," he said, "I guess you don't know what he's been saying about you." "I know," answered Lee. "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me!"

Joel Sarli is the editor of Elder's Digest.