Dr. George Cherian
“I love mankind” said someone and then he added, “But I hate people.” The statement sounds very strange, but it is a reality in the lives of many people. It is unquestionably proved by the broken relationships, open conflicts and the bitterness visible in the society. This has also crept into the Christendom and hence it is no wonder as another commented, “To live with the saints in heaven is glory, but to live with the same saints on earth is another story.” This erosion in relationships in the society has robbed the joy out of the life. Lord Jesus gave a significant portion of His Sermon on the Mount in defining harmonious kingdom style relationships and the needed change in our attitude and conduct to achieve the same.
Jesus identifies the blessed or the happy people through the beatitudes. As the light of the world (Matt 5:14), Jesus expects us to dispel the spiritual and social darkness in the society and as the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13) we are to foil the corruption in moral and spiritual values. In short, Christ expects God’s people to live very differently in this world. This requires a goodness that is above the natural goodness seen in the world. Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what rewards have you? Do not even tax collectors do the same?” In the Sermon on the Mount Christ exhorts his followers to display divine goodness to all around them. But this can be practised only with the spirit of the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount. In other words we need to have His divine life lived through us.What then is essential to demonstrate God’s pattern in the area of human relationships?
Refuse to have an angry heart (Matt 5:21-24)
While anger is needed for a moral society, unnecessary and uncontrolled anger destroys relationship. But anger cannot be remedied on external level. The problem lies in the heart where angry and bitter thoughts are harboured against someone. External discipline of controlling the anger is like putting the stopper on the pressure cooker. It may not blow the whistle until a certain pressure is reached but when the limit is exceeded; it will dislodge the stopper and burst out. The story is thus told of a woman who seemed to keep her composure even after being irritated by a teenager. She was asked by a passer-by, how did you keep your composure madam? She said, “O thou did not see the boiling inside.” But Jesus in His sermon gave priority in keeping the heart or the inner man under composure.Only a spirit controlled heart and life will promote harmonious relationship with others.
Refuse to take revenge (Matt 5:38, 39)
Jesus was exhorting his listeners to live and behave differently from the way of the world. In fact he was asking them to supersede the practice of the Old Testament times, when it was legal and just to claim an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. But beautiful relationships cannot be built when we exhibit a retaliatory nature in our lives. Revenge is sweet to the devil and looks honourable to a selfish man but to a man who revels in enjoying good relationship with others, revenge is not an option. Tit for tat policy is even carried into the area of conversation, that one is tempted to get even with sharp words when provoked by others. Human ties in families, churches and societies are shattered when spirit of revenge takes control of people’s lives.
Refuse doing the minimum (Matt 5:40-42)
We live in a world where people take advantage of us and even use their official positions and legal measures to exploit us. Christ in the message teaches us to be generous in such times to demonstrate the Kingdom values of a Christian and there by salvage strained human associations in the society. Jesus was asking the listeners to go an extra second mile with the Roman soldier’s luggage when the soldier uses his right to order a passer-by to carry his load for one mandatory mile. Spirit of generosity even in the midst of unjust exploitation by others can restore fragile human relationships. God’s people will agree to the hard truth that they are always at the losing side in times of settling disputes and claims. But such sacrifices are the price paid for bringing harmony at home and society. It is Abraham’s generosity that salvaged the relationship with his nephew, Lot and recent history also has many stories of godly men walking out of their rightful inheritance for the sake of God’s glory and for maintaining the spiritual fellowship and peace. Needless to say that there are also tragic stories of irrevocably damaged relationships for the want of a spirit of generosity and sacrifice. John Wesley said, “do all the good you can to all the people you can in all the ways you can an in all the times you can.”
Refuse to be an enemy to others (Matt 5:43, 44)
In this world there will be many who may not like us, there will be people who act like enemies and some may even persecute. Jesus asked his followers to have the spirit of love and forgiveness to cross the hostility barriers. We behave as a good human being when we return love to those who love us. But Jesus spoke about loving those who hate us and hurt us. This nature necessitates a heart full of divine love and forgiveness. The story is told of young man named Mike, undergoing trial for shooting William, son of Rev Walter Everett. After one of the trial sessions, Mike asked the pastor for forgiveness for killing his son. When the challenge for forgiving comes closer home to us it is indeed very hard. Rev. Everett did not reply immediately. But later on moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote a letter to Mike forgiving him of his crime. Mike shared later that although he came out of the prison only many months later, he felt the freedom in his heart even as he received the letter. After the prison term Mike was set free. The beauty of restored relationship was displayed best on the day when Pastor Walter Everett with God’s love solemnized Mike’s wedding.
May I close this with the remark from my own experience that a crucified self-life is the pre- requisite for enjoying Kingdom relationship that Christ desires.