For Sunday, February 12, 2017 – Matthew 5:21-37
Jesus reminds us that we already know what we need to know. We already have heard the Ten Commandments and memorized the Golden Rule and know we should put them into practice in our affairs. “But I say to you” … there’s more. The outer practices need to be integrated inwardly.
“You shall not murder” is the outward practice; equal to it, Jesus says, is the inner practice: “You shall not take out your anger on anyone.” Jesus says, “You already know about not committing adultery.” But I say … thinking it is the same as acting on it. If we start to realize that our thoughts and actions are one, we might as well start cutting off parts of our body and tossing them away as to try to rid ourselves of all infractions. Our most valiant attempts at righteous living will seem impossible, regardless of our rigor and discipline, when knowing and following the rules is only part of the equation. We also must know and follow our inner truth, and the truth is, we are not yet fully integrated.
Such a realization can be difficult to accept. We feel shamed by our hidden thoughts and intentions, especially those for which we have enjoyed judging others harshly. But one thing we know for sure is that Jesus is not president of the Shame Club. His motive is never to shame us but to free us. Freedom lies in realizing we cannot achieve our own righteousness or accomplish our own ideas of perfection. Even following all the commandments will not get us there. Only as we examine the inner condition of our hearts and find reconciliation with our accuser, whether another person or our own conscience, do we begin to relax into the truth of ourselves. Only then does our ‘Yes’ become ‘Yes’ and our ‘No’ become ‘No.’ Only then are we able to give the world the gift of ourselves and receive the gift of others.
This is at the heart of Jesus’ mission, at the heart of his love for us and all creation, that we find the joy of simply giving and receiving ourselves. Not to live more rigidly by the rules, not to force those rules upon others, but to find the fulfillment of integration, when our outward actions align with our inward intentions and we start to breathe more easily and enjoy each other more fully. In this way we come to know what we already know—that we are here not to judge but to love.