THE GOSPELS 39
Matt. 5:16 & 6:1
THE CHRISTIAN PERSONALITY
It would be helpful if the Bible student knew about the customs and practices of the people to whom Jesus was talking. For example, when He urges one not to retaliate when smitten on the right cheek, but instead to turn the left cheek. Barclay points out that Jewish custom held that when a man slapped another with the back of his hand (which one would have to do if he was right handed and was standing in front of his victim) it was the worst of insults. So, what Jesus is saying has nothing to do with being hit. It is about being insulted. He urged his followers not to react to insults. He was insulted regularly, but He “reviled not again” according to Peter’s account.
In this country especially, people are very insistent on having their rights. Much of the turmoil and legal exercise is because of people demanding their rights. Jesus taught His followers to be less concerned with their rights than with their duty to serve their fellowman. The Christian personality is quite different from the person who prizes his freedom to do as he pleases. The Christian’s obligation to love his neighbor as himself leaves little room for this.
In every instance, the teaching of Jesus, that we should not judge and should instead be forgiving and understanding, is based on the principle of what we ourselves need from the Father. As we look back on every day, we will see multiple mistakes we have made, and even more, the absence of activities calculated to further our Christian witness, or to reach out and help others. We may not commit egregious sins, but the bundle is never small with which we end each day. Our prayers must be filled with petitions for mercy and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus and the love of God. Can we afford not to extend that same gift to the stumbling ones with whom we come in contact each day?
Finally, I want to note the comparison of Matt. 5:16 and Matt.6:1. In the first passage, Jesus says we should let our light shine before men, so that they can see our good works.
However, in the latter verse He says not to do your acts of righteousness before men. How do we reconcile these two statements? It is easy if we see the reasons Jesus lists for each activity. In the first, He says let your light shine that men might glorify your Father in Heaven. In the latter, He says do not do your good deeds “to be seen of men”.
In other words, it is not a case of what you do, but of why you do it. Again we are impressed with the fact that Jesus is more concerned with our heart and spirit than He is with our actions.
Nothing is more beautiful than a sinner who has turned his life over to the Lord. However, nothing is uglier than a super pious individual, who parades his righteousness before men and is proud that he has achieved it. The preacher who preaches as a forgiven sinner, humbled by the privilege of telling the story of the Cross, touches more souls than the self-righteous one who demands that all agree with him because he has the truth and they better follow it. In doing good works, we must all remember the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. The world should not see my religion in the way I talk and present myself. They should be impressed with my good works and see in them the influence of my faith.