Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Christians and the Sermon on the Mount

Lately I've been focusing a little, and reflecting on our Lord's, "the Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). As I'm thinking through the text, having just read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's treatment of it in The Cost of Discipleship, I am wondering what difference it would make in the average American Christian's life, the average American evangelical Christian's life, and to the average American church and evangelical church, if all of the sudden this "Sermon on the Mount" no longer existed. My answer so far: I think, in general, very little if any at all.

When I first thought of reading Bonhoeffer (who I had read very little before) and of considering anew this passage in Matthew, I did so in seeking to understand what we as Christians are to be in relation to the world. And how this relates to how we view politics, or how we live in a political world (as Scot McKnight stated it, the last phrase). After reading Bonhoeffer's work on this passage, and now, spending some time meditating on it, I'm concluding that this passage has so much more to say to us than just how we Chrisitans relate to the political world. It really would speak to us about all of life. Who we are. And how we're to live out this identity in the world. It speaks of our heart and the actions which spring from it, both as individuals and as community. And I believe, it surely is foundational to understanding the rest of the content of the Gospels (especially Matthew and Luke, but including Mark and John) and of our Lord's teaching and life revealed in them.

What challenges me is to look at my own life, and the life of the Church as I know it, with the question: What difference would it make, if all the sudden Matthew 5-7 and any parallel accounts elsewhere as in Luke 6, were suddenly no longer in our Bibles, and never had been? Also I wonder how that may alter the rest of the New Testament? (This last question is more for the scholars). What do you think? Do you think this matters? (a trick question)


Bob Robinson said...

I'm not falling for that "trick question!" OF COURSE IT MATTERS!!

Great post.

Here's what I'm thinking: If Jesus came to proclaim the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, and then Matthew devotes three chapters telling us how we are supposed to live in that Kingdom, it seems obvious that the Sermon on the Mount is the central teaching on practicing our faith.

The sad thing is what you've pointed out: If these 3 chapters were to suddenly disappear, very few of us Christians would be much different. We have not embraced the radical Kingdom life that Jesus teaches us to live.

Ted Gossard said...

Great point.

Yes. And I'm looking in the mirror, as well as trying to sort this thing out in our/my theology and theopraxis. Looks like a lifelong project. Though we need to know what foundation we're on and what the vision is. It's not merely God's grace in Jesus transforming us to live out another story, such as "the American dream".

Ted Gossard said...

I had the opportunity today, in my mind, to put the Sermon on the Mount to practice. It was good. And I sought to do so in fellowship with Jesus. Not easy. But he helped me.

I know there are exceptions to what I'm saying. And maybe I stroked with too broad a brush.

But I really do think either our theology, or practice, or both, in general, often misses the mark, or is not on the same page.