This past Sunday I started a summer message series called “The Blessed Life” from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. For those interested in living the Christianity that Jesus had in mind, the instruction he offers in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be ignored.
What the Sermon on the Mount offers is instruction in the kingdom way of life. Just as Jesus proclaims and demonstrates the kingdom of God (cf. Matt 4:23ff), so also Jesus is teaching his disciples how to live as people of God’s kingdom. Below is a video of Jewish Musician Matisyahu’s song One Day. The song captures the hope for shalom, for the peace of God to reign…one day But Jesus believes that one day begins today as his disciples embrace this kingdom way of life that he is teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Yet this raises a problem I see as a minister. In many churches, especially in the Churches of Christ, the Bible is studied for the purpose of knowing the content. So when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount, the temptation is to spend time analyzing and analyzing each block of instruction. Frankly, at some point this becomes counter-productive. While there are a few places in the Sermon on the Mount where some moderate difficulty might arise, most, of the text is very easy to understand. The difficulty comes in practicing as Jesus teaches in this sermon. Of course, when we spend all our time studying, it can also become a subtle way of avoiding the changes (repentance) we know we must make if we’re to live as Jesus teaches.
Jesus preached this Sermon as a life to be lived, not a text to be studied. Study is helpful, exegesis and theological work in the text is necessary but apart from living the life this Sermon imagines, all is rather in vain. But I feel the need to say a word about the way we put the Sermon on the Mount into practice. Too often what Christians have been taught is application. The problem is that when we apply a text to our lives, what often happens is that we apply what works or fits with the basic shape of our lives while shying away from what doesn’t fit. Jesus wants nothing of this for our lives. Rather, Jesus wants us to live as he teaches which requires us to get rid of every aspect of our lives that doesn’t conform to the life imagined for us in this Sermon on the Mount.
So I close with this thought about the Sermon on the Mount. We all want God to bless our lives and so we ask him to bless our marriages, our children, our work, our neighborhoods, etc… But why do we keep asking God to bless our lives when God has already blessed a life for us to live? As we live the life Jesus imagines in the Sermon on the Mount, I believe we will find our relationships blessed because we dare to live the blessed life. So be blessed because one day begins today!