Binoculars, 25x100First, a recap. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is one continuous dissertation on 6 universal habits that sabotage love, presented in a specific order. Last week, we looked at Step 1: getting rid of habitual, willful anger and contempt. These always seek harm, which always returns harm.

By contrast, to love means to wish or seek good for someone. (This does not require affection. You don’t necessarily have to like people or their behavior to love them.)

Anger is a reflexive emotion triggered by an offended sense of internal justice. Its only purpose is to alert you to something that needs attention. Mercy is the antidote, an active force once it’s put in motion correctly.

You practice mercy by acknowledging the offense (not necessarily out loud), but temporarily suspending the sense of indignation until the anger subsides—a day, a month, whatever. Anger has done its job and can be put away. Now you can deal with the situation with a less scornful spirit. You’re thus empowered, in control rather than dragged along by every aggravation.

To most people, this sounds ridiculous or flat wrong, so they refuse to embrace it. But by giving up your “right” to be mad, not only do you break the grip of willful, retained anger over yourself, you automatically bless neighbors because they cease to be targets. Your new, more relaxed spirit feels greatly relieved, and the natural result is improved relationships.

But this takes intentional desire and planning ahead. It doesn’t happen by itself, nor does God do it for you. It’s how you love your neighbor as yourself.

Now then, as we move to Jesus’ second step—adultery and divorce—Step 1 must be in view. It is not a stand-alone. Remember, Jesus is a builder; his Sermon is not only sequential, it’s cumulative, like building a house. When the Sermon is chopped into bits in no particular order, it becomes nothing but a random collection of divine gripes instead of an intelligent Way to mend the soul.

Also, each new step assumes that the previous one is fairly well-established. Like learning ABCs before writing words, you don’t move on until you’re ready. God blesses and moves with you at your pace and ability. (more…)

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Binoculars, 25x100

In this series from the Sermon on the Mount, my previous post looked at getting rid of willful anger and contempt—the #1 culprits that sabotage well-being. Willful, retained anger always seeks to do harm; and harm always returns harm. Thus, the primary benefit of Jesus’ seek-no-harm strategy isn’t for neighbors; it’s for ourselves.

It’s important to keep anger and contempt in mind as we move to the next step, adultery and divorce. Remember, Jesus is a builder and his Sermon is sequential. When we chop it into random bits in no particular order, it becomes nothing but a collection of divine gripes rather than an intelligent Way to personal wellness.

You have heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…“It has also been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress.” (Mat. 5:27-29, 31-32)

Although it’s not what we usually hear, the secret is to realize what “woman” and what “wife” Jesus is ultimately talking about. This is primarily about spiritual adultery and divorce from God. Obviously, there’s a corresponding physical aspect, and that’s what we usually hear about (as did first-century crowds).

But the “woman” we lust after is the spiritual harlot depicted in Scripture as Mystery Babylon. The “wife” we shouldn’t divorce is God’s faithful wisdom and “her” children—love, truth, peace, joy, and so on. (Luk. 7:35, Mat. 11:19)

The “adulterous generation” didn’t die with the Pharisees. It lives on in the world (and the church!) because it’s a mind-set rather than any specific act. The point is that all sin is adultery and all sinners are adulterers. “The whole world” chases after Babylon. Once we digest that concept, we can better understand this step.

What Are You Looking At? (more…)