For so many of us followers of Jesus, we are disciples living by the bare minimum standards of discipleship: we go to weekly worship ( maybe), we follow the 10 Commandments (easy enough, I would think), we try to be nice to everyone, we say our prayers everyday and we work to make a living. Minimum standards of discipleship means having a checklist we just keep checking off to make certain we are doing what we think God wants us to do, we pad ourselves on our backs when completing the checklist, and figure we are good to go. By this is meant that after we die we will go to heaven. Very simple. Neat and clear and quite doable.
But there’s a catch here, a huge catch, called the Gospel, as a whole, and the Sermon on the Mount, in particular, that frequently don’t get placed on our checklists of what we must do to be a follower of Jesus. Keeping the 10 Commandments is a strange way for a Christian to respond as to what is most important in leading a spiritual and godly life, since it leaves off the entire New Testament!!! How convenient for us do gooders so comfortable with our salvation.
Just a cursory reading of the Sermon on the Mount should send us quaking to our knees. Jesus, our Savior, clearly doesn't want us living the lowest, common denominator way of living. He is calling us to a higher standard, a MUCH higher standard, beginning with the 8 Beatitudes, leading up to today’s unbearably difficult and challenging teaching: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Can you hear the rubber hitting the road?
Each one of us who is called to follow Jesus must first get rid of the checklist, a very self centered way of living life. There are no minimum standards of gospel living. Jesus is calling us to live and love in such a way that is impossible without GRACE, God's breath of Spirit that expands the heart and pushes boundaries further further away. We simply can’t live these impossible teachings without the gift of God we call Grace. All is Grace....
Living a “grace-filled” life means allowing God to make the impossible, possible. It means expanding our circle of friends to include those with whom we disagree. It means never, ever giving into the need for vengeance, or to “ get back” at those who harm us with hurtful words and actions. It means stop being the victim and relishing in the harm that was done. God gives each one of us our dignity and self worth. God also gives us the power not to be helpless.
Yes. Jesus is calling us all to a higher standard of living that begins with a long, hard look in the mirror, but knowing deep down that as we look into that mirror, God is gazing at us in absolute love.