Beyond The Law: Integrity
Matthew chapter 5 is our introduction to one the most famous “sermons” ever given. As Christ headed up the mountain to sit down to teach those who were following him he knew the inner weaknesses, the hypocritical lifestyle, the dangerous forms of thinking and the waywardness of a person’s heart that oftentimes was being masked as the religious status quo of the day had become more show then substance and reality.
For the religious, the law had become a focus on external righteousness instead of an internal one. Rules and regulations was the standard for how a person should live as praying, fasting, giving and many other visible signs were the basis for closeness with God. Read Matthew chapter 5 and you will see how Christ takes us beyond an external focus and teaches about true inward character, my standing in the world and true obedience to God.
Its easy to harp on the weaknesses and hypocrisies of the religious and yet I wonder how Christ might look at my life, my attitudes and even my approach to what makes a person close with God. Am I outward focused, accepting another or feeling confident in my place with the believers because of what is seen on the external? Do I live a life beyond the status quo of what is acceptable where I fellowship and truly walk close with God? Do I obey the rules handed down but lack intimacy with the Lord?
For the religious their safety net was found in the law and the traditions derived from it and so you had a religious culture based on being sticklers for what the law said but forgetting what the Lord truly wanted. For this reason, Christ begins to bring those around him beyond just what the law said to what God actually desired.
Matt.5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all… But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
Where does integrity fit in? The people knew the law forbade breaking oaths in the Lords name, so to not break the law the people simply took oaths on other things like when a person says today “I swear on my mothers grave or I swear on my life”. Even if I broke the oath or promise as long as I didn’t use the Lords name I technically have kept the law. This way of thinking made people content in technicalities but far from God.
Christ teaches that true integrity removes the need to make an oath or a promise and on the basis of my character and person my “Yes” and “No” will be taken at face value knowing I will do what I say. The law said don’t swear falsely in my name but Christ says, be a person of such integrity that you don’t even need to make a promise in my name.
Dear believer, take some time today to reflect on your life, to make sure we never lose sight that the Lord needs to deal with my inward self before the outward and contentment in perceived obedience can be a false set of security to what the Lord truly desires from me in my life.
Kyle Wilson is commended with his wife to full time service in Nicaragua, from the assembly that meets in Carleton Gospel Hall, Vancouver. He is in fellowship in the assembly in El Valle, and has three young children.