In the title, I am deliberately leaving out the word “perfect” as it is a source of much stress for many. Though I have come to look at it in the terms of “completion” not perfectionism. The Savior takes pains to spell out his definition of perfection, which is not after the appearance of things.
Yet, what Savior is really saying here is that He wants us to be as He is. He goes on to include His Father in that statement. These are our standards of measurement, the one unchanging, universal rule of truth. This is how we are to be!
On a new morning, it strikes me even more amazing that Christ is not only inviting us to become as He and the Father are, but that he has the power to articulate on what principles and in such exhaustive, yet universally applicable, detail.
I am like hardened earth against some of the council in these verses. I cannot receive it. It doesn’t resonate with me. And it is as nothing to me. I do not know how to remedy this. For this is the council that the Savior gives just right before he makes his final declaration in this chapter to “be perfect”.
Elements of the New Law
- Anger – “whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. “
- Name Calling – “And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca… Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
- Provocation – “if ye… shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— first be reconciled to thy brother…”
- Conflict – “Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with him”
- Lust – “whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.”
- Unclean Thoughts – “suffer none of these things to enter into your heart. For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell. “
- Divorce – “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery.”
- Swearing/Communication – “swear not at all… let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil.”
- Revenge/Generosity –
- “thou shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;”
- “if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;”
- “whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
- “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.”
- Enmity/Love – “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;”
The above categorical approach is incorrect or incomplete.
I have spent a lot of time on verses 27 to 30, wrestling with some very personal feelings. I end with the footnote on “cross” in verse 30.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.Matthew 16:24
This phrase “deny yourself” seem to be the clarifying point. I’m looking for something more of explanation here, something that offers more insight and instruction, and presently I cannot find anything. Thus I am wrestling.
I’ve dug deeper on the words “adultery”, “lust”, and their Spanish counterparts. The thing that is really throwing me for a loop is that the old law was to not commit adultery, which is to participate in extramarital sexual relationship. But the new law is different, it is to not lust after a woman. There is no qualifier of any marital status or relationship. Lust is an interesting word. “Codiciar” is it Spanish counterpart and one definition of the word means to take more than one’s fair portion.
It is suggested also that the term “lust” used in these scriptural verse has its origin in more general covetousness, rather than to be exclusively focused on sexual desire.
But the final thing that has given me pause for consideration is this: the Savior says “suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” It is plural. Why?
So why the plural “these things”? What are these things? The footnote on “none” points to a verse in Doctrine and Covenants that literally repeats almost verbatim the same commandment to not look on a woman to lust after her. So how else could this have been said?
- Suffer not this thing…
- Suffer none of this thing…
- Suffer not these things…
But the commandment is suffer none of these things? What are these things? The lustful thoughts. And how many are we allowed to let pass through? Answer: NONE. Not even one. The mind is no playground for perverse thoughts. The plural seems to suggest that there will be multiple attempts from the adversary to tempt us with the same repeated thoughts.
How bold of the Savior to venture into the internal realms of the soul, and give strict instructions on how to keep our houses clean, perfectly spotless!
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.Acts 8:22
The following verse repeats the plural statement “these things” and connects the denial of “these things” to the act of taking up our crosses. One footnoted verse in Luke reminds me that this is a daily activity: “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Reviewing prophetic quotes on divorce puts these statements more inline with the previous declarations from the Savior. The cause for most troubles in marriage is selfishness. The remedy for most problems in marriage is repentance, not divorce.
Swear Not At All
At the heart of this counsel to not swear is the principle of honestly. We covenants with the Lord. We faithfully fulfill those covenants. Then in our honesty, there is no need to swear, for we are truthful in all our communications. (See verses 33-37)
Ye Shall Not Resist Evil
(27 Feb 2020) – The date here is significant as it is now two mornings after a harrowing personal assault that took place on our family. Rachel and I were victims of a vicious extortion scheme that took a large sum of money from us while pretending to put our family member’s life in great danger.
I had read the verses 38 – 45 prior to this event, but this morning the Spirit is so much stronger in emphasizing the reality of these statements:
But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also…vs. 39, 41, 44, 45
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain…
…behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
Anyone else except for Christ could have said this with less authority. But these are the words of Christ, who suffered the great, most horrific cruelty and injustice imaginable. This resonates with me so deeply this morning. I’ve yet to pray for my enemies. The children need to hear me do this too.
New day, I am spending a little more time in verses 44 & 45 studying the footnotes. “Do good to them that hate you.” Footnote to the topical guide entry for Benevolence. I think few things describe the true nature of God better than this idea: that God is love, not just love, but unconditional love or love without limits. When I think about my relationship to the Father, or rather His relationship to me, benevolence is the attribute that perhaps best captures my feelings about His generosity towards me. It is familiar to me, because I have been the recipient of this benevolence repeatedly and often.
In the final verses of this chapter, the Savior goes on to explain that all things are fulfilled in Him. The old law of Moses has been done away. All things are become new, again. In reading that, it strikes me as a critical transition then. Christ has spelled out in this chapter how things used to be, and then how we ought now to comport ourselves in the new law of Christ (which was actually the original law from the beginning of time).
In this context, there is an imperative requirement for us to become as Christ has come, because the reality is that Christ did come. The higher standard has been set. Now it is left to us to comply or be left out. Therefore, let us complete the race that is placed before us. Christ suffered all that we might be and become like Him and the Father.