The non-Christian Western world, shrill in its atheistic individual secularism, would love nothing better than to have the Church “shrink and huddle into a corner” and disappear from the public square. (NT Wright). Likewise, any sense of renewal within the Church that calls for engagement is hailed as triumphalism. In some ways, this is justified as we look back at the folly and failures of the Church: crusades, inquisitions, etc. The modern world has also had its litany of mistakes in the name of Christ.
But then there is the Sermon on the Mount. Considered the magnum opus of Jesus; according to most scholars, the greatest sermon ever preached. What about it? Quite probably, the most celebrated and under-lived sermon in the history humankind. Everyone, even most secular types, know something of the sermon, but rarely has the world seen it lived out.
One cynical Jewish scholar has said, “the history of the Christian church is how to live the opposite of the Sermon on the Mount.” Ouch.
The story of the politics of the East and West has been the endless pursuit of power, security and protection. From the Left to the Right, from Fascism to Capitalism, from Communism to Democracy, our history is replete with power struggles that will bring security and protection to a certain group of people. Jesus came along and turned this entire value system upside down.
Jesus came preaching a new kingdom, a new way of thinking. He began by proclaiming, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is upon you.” His message was of a new system, a new way of life that the Romans, Greeks and even the Jews had never thought about. Indeed, in our modern world, we still don’t think much about it.
I would like to propose that the Sermon on the Mount was not just a good sermon with a new paradigm for viewing life, but rather, deeper and wider than that. I would call it a manifesto; a Kingdom of God Manifesto, a declaration of a new radical way of looking at everything in life.
The revolution accomplished on Good Friday and sealed on Easter was the victory of a strange new power; the power of covenant love, a covenant love lived out through a lifestyle of suffering love. This suffering love would win the world step by step through the values found in the Sermon on the Mount.
Church history shows us the radical difference that can be made by a people who live out the suffering love found in the values of this manifesto. Read it today. Read it tomorrow. Read it each day this week as found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. See what it does to your view of love and life.
More to come,
Steve Holt M.A., D.D.
My newest book, Worshipper Warrior, can be found at www.steveholtonline.org