This is a long post…sorry in advance. I think it’s worth it, though.
In Matthew 5, Jesus made it clear that Christians are held to a higher standard than even that of the law. He admitted the veracity of the command “you shall not kill”, then added to it the attitude of hatred, and elevated it to the same level. He assented to the command “you shall not commit adultery”, then elevated lust to equal status.
What Jesus is saying is that to plan murder, to think of murder, to harbor hatred in ones heart, or even to support others plans for murder is the same as committing it. To entertain thoughts of lust, to observe lustful acts in others, or to assent to fornication around us is the same as committing it ourselves.
The same can be said of all the commandments. To say we do not covet while we take part in the rampant materialism around us is delusional. To fill our hearts and our time with hour upon hour of entertainment and worldliness is a violation of Gods command to “have no other Gods before me”.
In essence, Jesus is saying we cannot merely cast an admiring glance towards Gods laws. His commands do not exist in a vacuum, they must live in real life. I cannot simply assent to the command to not commit adultery while routinely looking at scantily clad women on television or winking at fornication on a movie screen, in a song, or wherever else it may reside. I cannot accept the command to love my enemies or not resist evil and not accept how that plays out in real life: in how I respond to the man who steals from me, to the enemy of my country, even the evil despot who oppresses others.
Jesus is saying, “You cannot accept the commands as mere platitudes. They’re meant to be lived at the basest and most elemental levels of your heart. To think otherwise is to be guilty of the same hypocrisy as the Pharisees.” This is a lonely road. Most will not have the courage to walk it. They will even ridicule those who do, labeling them as radicals and extremists. Even those who choose to walk it will be riddled with doubt and fear. It will take a lifetime for God to truly purge us of our selfishness and teach us to walk as He walked.
The journey starts now. It starts with a decision to take seriously the teachings of Christ. It starts with the honesty to admit we haven’t really considered that He might have meant what He said.