We’re familiar with the expression “Do the right thing.” In today’s politically charged environment, doing the right thing may become virtue signalling or humblebrag, striking a pose for the approval of our peers. It’s easy to posture in ways that get likes on social media. It’s easy, but is it right? Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 6:1-18 that virtue signalling has no place in the life of a Christian. Following Jesus isn’t just about the right thing—it’s about the right motive. Are we performing for God’s eternal approval or for the momentary applause of our peers? Who is our audience? What is our motive?
Well-meaning Christians at times speak of “law and grace” as opposite ways of salvation, as if the the Old Testament and the New Testament were opposed to one another. This viewpoint results from thinking of the law of Moses as legalism rather than God’s gracious instruction for Israel. Anyone who thinks that the New Testament is at odds with the Old Testament, that Jesus’ message contradicted Moses’ message, has to deal with Matthew 5:17-48. We learn here how Jesus understood the Old Testament and his relationship to it. This teaches us how we ought to read the Old Testament today.
The values of the Beatitudes turn the world as we know it upside down. Following Jesus means weeping as others laugh, longing for real shalom as others endorse the status quo, and being marginalized as others flourish. But it’s worth it when you consider the radical reversal of fortunes that will occur when God blows the whistle and ends the game. Jesus’ followers already enjoy the blessedness of his Lordship during difficult times, but when the game is over, the worship party really begins.
Millions of sermons have been preached since the days of Jesus, but only one of them could be known as “The Sermon.” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) is probably the most well-known of all the teachings of Jesus. The Sermon isn’t just counter-culture—sadly, in some ways, it’s counter-Christian culture. And that’s putting it mildly.
In my experience we Christians tend to be pretty hard on Peter. When we read of his brief walk on water in Matthew 14, and remember how he sank when he realized how hard the wind was blowing, we shake our heads and say “There he goes again.” Easy for us to say when we’ve never ventured out of the boat.
Doing Church during COVID-19 is a challenge. I recently had the opportunity to reflect on Matthew 14 at Genesis Church in Coralville Iowa. Jesus’ feeding the multitude teaches us not only about his power but also about our responsibilities during these difficult days.