Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Sermon on the Mount, Part X of XL


TEXT: Continuing with Matthew 5:
27. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

COMMENTARY: This is one of the most repeatedly, radically misunderstood texts in the history of Christianity. For every human being has a biological body. And no human being can regulate or control every bioresponse of that body. Is, then, the situation completely hopeless? Is the Christ of Love damning all of us?

That is not tenable. To understand this verse, we must look at the context, especially the audience to whom Jesus was likely speaking. He was talking to super-selfrighteous people, to ultrareligious people radically infected with spiritual pride. The religious leaders of the time felt themselves immensely superior to the "rabble," or the "crowd," the common person. They smugly felt themselves spiritually superior, largely because they were convinced that they had never, in all their lives, broken any of the "laws of Jehovah." But they despised the common person, whom they dismissed as "sinners," and so, fairly hopeless, especially when compared to their "righteous" selves!

Jesus wanted to show these hypocrites that they were just as sinful as the "common" person! He wanted to rip off their masks of smug superiority, if not to expose them in public. So, he taught that sin was a state or condition of mind rather than a mere bodily act. Further, those who saw themselves as so ultrapure he exposed as "unclean," just like all others. For an imperfect mind was the great equalizer among people. It placed them all on a level playing-field!

So, Jesus was not, very atypically, condemning biology, or the body, or its urges and feelings. That would be to damn everyone! This is the opposite of Love! Instead, his intent was to expose the ultraright, selfrighteous, superioristic religious leaders to parts of themselves that they could not deny. For they had long acted in denial of their own lower (humanimal) nature, setting themselves up as superhuman beings, loftily above the crowd. Jesus' friends, sinners all, were severely hurt by their attitudes of condemnation and sneering dismissal.

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