February 9th, 2020

Matthew 5:13-20

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

Harmony between the Law and Love

When I was in Chicago, Illinois, one thing that made me confused was traffic signs. Among the traffic signs, I was confused by the sign of the left turn and the stop sign. As you may know, Chicago is one of the cities, which are lots of traffic jams. It may be the third city for traffic jams in the USA after New York and Washington DC.

Most “the sign of left turn” in Chicago is with “no left turn signal (no green arrow),” which means that you may make a left turn at an intersection with a green light as a signal of going straight. However, when you do so if you get any accidents on your way, it is totally under your responsibilities, not other cars which are going to a straight way following the green light. So, it is your free will whether you go or not, but if you do not go in a timely, the other cars behind you may complain to you.

What about the stop sign? Whether one sees you or not, whether there is any car or not, and whether there is a pedestrian or not, you have to stop for a second totally at the sign of the stop, and then you can go continually. If you are at the intersection of all sides’ stop, you may go by the order the first come first served. It is an excellent rule to respect others and to respect the law.

The Scripture of today is that Jesus’s sermon continues the following by the Beatitude. Since we learned the Beatitude as “Be- attitudes of Christians” last Sunday, Jesus teaches us today, how we Christians live out with the “be-attitudes” in the world. Jesus follows the Beatitudes with two designations or symbols of the disciples: salt and light. Both are important in human life. We cannot live without salt and light in the world, but the values of salt and light are beyond themselves. These two symbols refer to the enriching and preservative influence of Christian in the world.

“You are the salt of the earth” suggests at least three things: purity, preservation, and flavor. Salt in Roman society symbolized purity. It was no doubt from the process of using seawater and the sun to gain the salt. Jesus’ use of the symbol of salt to describe the disciples emphasizes the call and influence of purity the Christian brings to society. Salt uses to preserve food and flavor seasoning food.  When the salt applied to food properly, it is not recognized by people, but it makes the food more “being delicious food.”  Guess French fries without salt!  When people have delicious food, no one praises the salt, rather praises of the fresh elements or praise the cook who made the food. As if when salt applies the food properly, the food has great taste, our role in society is not to be over against it so much as it is to enrich or purify the social order, making it more truly a realm of blessing for humanity. Christians would be to shine on others, not shine by themselves.

“You are the light of the world.”  The light is a symbol of radiance of openness, of joy compatible with “blessedness” expressed in the Beatitudes. The Disciple of Christ is the light to the world that is an influence for openness, honesty, acceptance, and love. Christian is not called to “monasticism,” or to a retreat from life, but invited to manifest the joy of being the Disciples of Christ. The light’s role is to guide people to find the right way. In other words, Christians are not calling attention to themselves but pointing the way of God. As Jesus says, “I am the way of truth to go to the Father,” we are pointing to Christ, who is the way of God. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” As we are the light in the world, to be seen as the light, we live openly in the world as the Disciples of Christ, a visible witness of Christ.

Jesus, after mentioned Christian’s identities as the salt and the light, explains the purpose he came to the world. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” The early Christians were Jewish Christians, who lived in the Law for their whole lives. However, after they accepted a new covenant of the Christian community, they were at confusion whether following the Law continually.

For this confusion we also have nowadays. As we believe that “we are saved only by faith in the name of Christ,” we are wondering if we have to keep the great Commandments of God still.  Jesus says to people who are under the confusion, including us, “for truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” It sounds like he means that we have to keep all the Law of God. It seems like we have to keep everything all prophets say in the Scripture. Jesus identifies all Old Testaments Scriptures and affirms their timeless authority. He calls us to faithfulness to even the least of God’s commandments, but he avoids a legalism that focuses on the letter of the Law in the fashion of the scribes and Pharisees. Instead, he calls us to the spirit of the Law.

The Apostle Paul says of our new life in the spirit as one in which “the just requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). Jesus’s teaching is obvious that he is interpreting the spirit of Scripture. For example, we have the Law, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” While Jews and Jewish Christians try to keep the Sabbath day not to do anything on that day regardless of the urgent issue on human life, Jesus shows them to heal people and save them on the Sabbath days. He says, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). As such, the Scripture is an authority that will not pass away without all being fulfilled.

Let us think of the stop signs and to make a left turn with a no signal at the intersection. The Law is to be kept by autonomy, but still, there is free even though sometimes it gives us a ticket to pay. However, if we do not have any traffic rules, we could imagine how chaotic it is. The Law is beautiful when it is kept by people who respect others thoughtfully as well as respect the Law. Therefore, the Law is for people, not for itself. The spirit of the Law is based on love. God gave us the Law to protect people with love, especially for the powerless. As such, the Law still serves us to see our sin, our sinfulness, and to show us our need of the Savior. When the Law keeps with love, it is perfectly beautiful, like our Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, when we keep the Commandments of God, if we do so with love of God and love of our neighbors, it is fulfilled in us who live according to the Holy Spirit. The Law is accomplished by love. Jesus says, “I have come to fulfill the Law” because Jesus is perfect love.

Jesus says, “ therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 19). Jesus’ saying, “does them and teaches them” emphasizes Christians’ life which we have to live it out.  Jesus says it in the Gospel of Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kin(g)dom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

As Christians, we live the Law of God out, but do not burden on it because we are immature yet in Christ. Therefore, Jesus has come to us to give freedom from the Law. The Law is not to be kept by the rule of a letter, but by love.  Martin Luther, who was the protestant in the 19th century, in his article “Christian Freedom,” says, “Christian is the freest master of all and is no subordinate to anyone, yet Christian is extremely loyal servants who serve for all things and are subject to all.” We are free to all, but we still debtors of love to Christ. Remembering the love of Christ, be the salt and the light in the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen!